A budget that puts more money into personnel and roads will be the main attraction at Washington’s Town Meeting.
There are no contested races in the municipal election. Ballot voting will take place from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday in the Bryant Room of Gibbs Library, 40 Old Union Road.
The annual meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday at Prescott Memorial School, 100 Waldoboro Road. The warrant consists of several routine articles authorizing the selectmen and other officials to conduct town business, plus articles for a municipal budget of $724,536.
The budget is about $46,000, or 6.8 percent, higher than last year’s. Anticipating a 2 percent increase in school costs, the selectmen are projecting that the property tax rate will rise from $13.20 to $13.70 per $1,000 of valuation. On a house valued at $100,000, that equates to a tax increase of $50 per year.
The most significant increases in the budget are for road maintenance and pay and benefits for employees.
Wesley Daniel, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said the town started last year on a plan to improve and repave 2 miles of road annually, at a cost of about $95,000 per mile. This year, the money would go toward work on Mountain Road.
“If we can keep doing two miles every year, in 10 years we’ll have it all done, so we can do it all over again,” Daniel said.
The total budget recommended for road maintenance and related work is $360,650, up 4 percent from last year.
Raises, new stipends and health insurance would increase spending on employee compensation by 25 percent, from $99,400 to $144,480.
Daniel said the selectmen are recommending the new spending to hold on to good employees and to improve Washington’s chances of attracting new talent in the future.
“We could get better, more experienced people that way when the time comes,” he said. “If (current employees) should get another job or move on, you’re going to have to put an ad out there and you’re going to have to have something for them to look at.”
Proposed raises include $600 for the town clerk/tax collector, $500 for the registrar of voters and $250 for the emergency management director. The code enforcement officer’s salary also would increase, from $8,000 to $15,000, but the code enforcement officer no longer would receive half of the land use-related fees, which amounted to about $7,000 last year.
The selectmen recommend that the town start providing health insurance to employees who work more than 30 hours a week, with the town paying 80 percent of the premium. Two employees would qualify, and the cost to the town would be $13,440.
Some Budget Committee members initially questioned that proposal, but they accepted the argument that it would help Washington hang on to good employees.
“In a lot of cases, Washington has been some of a training ground, especially in the municipal office — bringing in people and training them, and then they go elsewhere for other positions,” committee Chairman Hank Aho said. “It was thought that offering them some benefits would help keep them with the town.”
The selectmen and Budget Committee also have endorsed increasing the pay of the fire chief and the deputy fire chief and instituting a new stipend for the volunteer firefighters.
The chief’s stipend would increase from $2,750 to $4,000 and the deputy chief’s from $2,250 to $3,000, while $3,750 would be available to be split among firefighters.
Daniel said the town would develop a policy setting minimum training requirements for firefighters to qualify for a stipend of up to $250.
Aho said volunteering for the Fire Department is a large commitment of time and it deserves some compensation.
“It’s not a very large sum, but it’s a reflection that the town does appreciate that the firemen are very responsible and dedicated,” he said.