Pittston’s Town Meeting scheduled for Saturday morning probably won’t be as contentious as last year’s meeting, but the head of the Board of Selectmen said she still expects some debate about what town officials are proposing.
The overall budget recommended by the board is roughly $927,000, which is 6 percent more than the total budget eventually approved by the town last year. If all articles recommended by a majority of the board pass, the amount that will need to be raised by taxes is about $430,000, or 10 percent more than the year before.
The Town Meeting is scheduled for 9:45 a.m. Saturday at Pittston Consolidated School, and the town election, with no contested races, is scheduled from noon to 7 p.m. Monday at the Town Office.
Last year, residents angry about the selectmen’s dismissal of a longtime town clerk cut $40,000, including the equivalent of the town clerk’s salary, from the administrative budget. Shortly before the meeting, residents had submitted petitions with hundreds of signatures calling for the recall of the three board members and two staff members.
All three members of the Board of Selectmen eventually were replaced, and residents restored the roughly $40,000 back into the budget at a special town meeting in June.
Jane Hubert, board chairwoman, said she thinks people feel more positive going into the meeting compared to last year.
“I don’t feel as though it’s going to be disruptive or argumentative,” she said. “There will be arguments, but it won’t be argumentative.”
One of the most discussed items this year probably will be proposed changes to the way the town funds cemetery maintenance, Hubert said.
Previously, the town paid for the maintenance of about two-thirds of the 24 cemeteries in Pittston, all privately owned. Hubert said the Maine Municipal Association advised the board that the town shouldn’t spend money to maintain private cemeteries, but the state requires municipalities to maintain the gravesites of veterans.
The selectmen and the Budget Committee are recommending appropriating $25 per veteran gravesite for every cemetery. This would provide funding of less than $100 for about a half dozen cemeteries that didn’t receive any funding from the town before, while lowering the funding for some cemeteries. The total funding recommended, $8,350, is about $1,000 more than what the town approved last year.
The board also is recommending against a $2,000 funding request from the Riverside Cemetery to restore an area outside of the rest of the cemetery where apparently unmarked graves have been found. The board voted against the request because the town would be providing money to a private entity, Hubert said.
New funding requests include $6,000 for a maintenance fund for the Town Office and $5,000 to fund a waste-collection day to compensate for residents not being able to drop off waste on Saturdays at the disposal plant the town switched to last year.
The board’s decision to drop its contract with the city of Augusta’s Hatch Hill Solid Waste Disposal Facility will save the town $40,000 this year, but Hubert said residents can no longer drop waste off on Saturdays at the town’s new waste facility, Pine Tree Waste in West Bath.
She said the $5,000 request will fund at least one waste-collection day sometime this year.
The amount raised by taxes will increase if the selectmen’s recommendations pass, but how the new budget will affect the tax rate won’t be known until the reassessment of property values is completed by fall, Hubert said.
The current tax rate is $13.20 per $1,000 of assessed property value.
The board approved an article that will ask the residents to approve the issuance of tax bills twice a year starting in 2015, because the board is trying to move the town away from relying on tax-anticipation loans to fund operations over the summer, Hubert said. Last year, the town spent more than $3,000 on interest and $1,500 in attorney fees for a $500,000 loan, she said.
In the town election on Monday, there are six positions with no one on the ballot and all races are uncontested.
Roger Linton is running for the Board of Selectmen seat held by Vicki Kelley, who is not seeking re-election.
There are three candidates — Terry Shepherd, Daniel Taggert and Laura Walentine — for the three open Planning Board positions; and only one candidate, Sylvanus Larry Ireland, for the three Budget Committee seats. Sam Snow is running for re-election as road commissioner.
No one is running for an open Regional School Unit 11 School Board position, two open Personnel Board seats and one open Planning Board alternative seat.
Hubert said residents should write in candidates only if they are interested in the positions, and they need to check the box next to the write-in for the vote to be counted.
Linton, 72, said he’s a former Gardiner school district administrator and was principal of Pittston’s school for 10 years. He said he now operates his own lumber company and is running because he wants to use his experience to help the town.
Linton said he would like try to find ways to save money in the budget and to involve residents as much as possible in decisions.
“It’s a great community. It really is,” he said. “It has had some problems in the past, but not with the people there now.”