FARMINGTON — The library was granted $5,000 more than originally requested at Town Meeting Monday night after more than two-thirds of voters approved the increase.
The measure was part of an approved $5.02 million budget, up 2 percent from last year.
Town officials estimated the proposed budget would increase the 2014 property tax to $16.25 per $1,000 of valuation, if the school and county taxes do not significantly increase. The current property tax rate is $15.75 per $1,000 of valuation or $1,575 on a $100,000 property.
Previously, selectmen voted 4-1 to recommend that voters approve $135,938, a flat budget for the library. The town’s budget committee, however, voted 5-4 to suggest voters increase the budget to $5,000 more than the library requested. Town officials in favor of the increase said the money would go toward needed capital improvements like carpet replacement, increased security and chimney repair.
“We can’t have it be crumbling for a stable community,” said outgoing selectmen Jessica Berry, when asked to explain her reasoning.
Chairman Ryan Morgan said he recommended the library, a nonprofit organization separate from the town, reduce its budget because almost all municipal department heads reduced their budgets.
“Maybe the library can find a few extra grants,” he said. “The library is not a town entity.”
Library Trustee Dick Morton told voters before the vote that the library would understand if they were not granted the additional $5,000, but urged voters not to grant flat funding.
“Even if the town appropriates the full amount … we’ll still have to conserve and cut costs in order to meet the budget that we presented,” he said.
The motion passed with what moderator Paul Mills declared a clear majority, and exact count of the vote was not taken.
The five person select board will undergo a turnover this year, after Andrew Buckland, a former Mt. Blue music teacher, and Stephan Bunker, previous chairman, were elected as selectmen with 253 and 242 votes, respectively. They will replace Selectmen Dennis Pike, receiving 159 votes, and Berry, who did not seek re-election.
Pike, who had served on the board for more than 15 years, received a standing ovation from the crowd.
Voters seamlessly approved a $1.2 million police department budget, which accounts for over a fifth of the municipal budget. The department budget includes 1.56 percent pay increase to match the increase in the cost of living.
Voters also approved increasing the fire budget to $380,056, up 20 percent from last year.
The budget increase had been the subject of lengthy research and debate among board members and Fire Chief Terry Bell. The $62,714 increase was proposed to combat poor retention rates without forking out for full-time staff.
“That has saved us from having to hire full-time people,” Bell said. By using a rotating list of hourly-paid volunteer firefighters, Bell said the town is paying half of what Skowhegan does for fire protection, despite responding to the same number of fire calls.
“I think the town gets a pretty good service for what they pay for,” he said.
Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252 firstname.lastname@example.org