Sidney residents approved a $1.4 million budget, $4,500 less than what had been proposed, at Town Meeting Saturday.
The $1,419,470 budget, up less than 1 percent from the year before, was approved after a two and a half hour meeting at the J.H. Bean School.
Among items approved was money to several different groups to help in the battle against milfoil, an invasive weed that clogs up area lakes, including Messalonskee, which borders the town.
Voters cut money from the fire department personnel request, splitting the selectmen’s higher recommendation and the budget committee’s lower one.
Voters won’t know how the budget will affect the property tax rate until after county and school taxes are passed. The current property tax rate is $9.97 per $1,000 of valuation, or $997 on an $100,000 property.
Selectman Doug Eugley told voters that the municipal portion of the property tax will decrease by $9.60 on an $100,000 house, but the overall property tax rate could still increase if the Kennebec County and Regional School Unit 18 budgets increase.
Voters decreased the fire budget for personnel from $40,300 to $37,500. The budget committee recommended $36,500 for the fire department while the selectmen recommended $40,300.
Residents approved spending up to $10,000 on a new generator for the Town Office and the attached Grange building. The office is designated as a town emergency shelter and the Grange is designated as a shelter for the school.
Eunice Spooner was elected to the RSU 18 school board, beating Robert Colby in a race for the seat previously held by Laura Downing.
Voters also approved beefing up funding to fight milfoil, an invasive weed that has been quickly spreading in the greater Belgrade lakes region. Sidney is one of several area towns being asked to chip in on the costly eradication effort.
Belgrade Regional Conservation Alliance requested an additional $1,000 for milfoil removal, which was quickly approved with no discussion.
Friends of Messalonskee was granted $2,500, also for milfoil eradication. The alliance uses its money primarily for boat inspections while the Friends of Messalonskee concentrate efforts on removing milfoil from the bodies of water. Last year the groups reported 5,122 boats inspected and a combined 10,900 gallons of milfoil removed.
The majority of discussion at the meeting stemmed from articles a few of the residents perceived as blank checks that did offer enough accountability.
Selectmen had proposed a $5,000 reserve fund to be used for any matching grants that may come up in the year; residents amended the proposal to be $5,000 for this year, but the money would need to be re-approved each year.
Budget committee member William Cole said he was against creating a reserve fund because it didn’t stipulate how the selectmen could use it.
“I trust the selectmen we have now,” Cole said, but said he did not want to approve discretionary funding for future selectmen he may trust less.
The motion passed 33 to 29 in the only vote close enough for an exact count instead of just a show of hands.
A couple of residents, however, did not succeed in attempts to limit what kind of donations or grants the board was allowed to accept. A motion to require approval before spending the donations was overwhelmingly defeated as well as a motion to limit donations to the town to $10,000 unless given specific approval at Town Meeting.
Kaitlin Schroeder — firstname.lastname@example.org