Voters in Brighton Plantation have agreed to move the date of their Town Meeting from March to June.
First Selectwoman Joanne Goodridge said before last Saturday’s meeting that residents and officials in the small Somerset County town believe they could better manage voting on spending articles at Town Meeting if they knew how much they were going to need for schools and the county tax.
School budget calendars and the county’s fiscal year both operate from July 1 to June 30. Several other communities that run under the town meeting form of government hold their annual meetings and elections in May and June, notably Skowhegan, Madison, Fairfield and Clinton, but most still hold their meetings in March.
Another consideration for moving the annual meeting to May or June is knowing how much state revenue sharing will be, said Eric Conrad, director of communications at Maine Municipal Association.
“It’s a trend that we’ve seen over the past several years — March used to be and probably still is the dominant Town Meeting season, but it’s gradually migrating to April, May and June,” Conrad said. “The one key reason why is the budget numbers tend to be firmer when you’re projecting next year’s budget out.”
He said state revenue sharing numbers still are in play in March because of continuing debate in the Maine Legislature. Town Meetings are pushed back for a better chance at having real numbers to vote on, he said.
“It’s like your household budget — if you’re going to plan for next year, the most accurate, firm numbers you have, the better,” Conrad said. “It’s something our lawyers have seen over the last four or five years. It’s a gradual shift from March to later in the year.”
A date for the 2015 Town Meeting has not yet been set.
In other voting at Saturday’s meeting, residents voted to join with Somerset County and neighboring Kingsbury Plantation to share expenses on the construction of a sand and salt shed and to borrow $265,000 to do so.
The shed is to be built in Brighton on Wellington Road near the transfer station, where there is town-owned land available and access to electrical power. Goodridge said the work has to be done now before the window closes on state reimbursement for the project.
Sand and salt previously were stored on land owned by Farrin Bros. & Smith of Brighton, a company that was contracted to plow and sand local roads for more than 60 years. Company owners recently retired, Goodridge said.
Of the $265,000 to be borrowed at 2 percent over 10 years, Brighton will initially have to come up with about $110,637, but the final cost after state reimbursement would be about $28,000. For Kingsbury, the upfront cost would be $94,207. After state reimbursement they also would pay $28,000.
Somerset County’s share of the cost comes because Mayfield Township also is included in the deal and is not an organized town or plantation. The cost to the county would be $60,155 before state reimbursement. The final cost to the county would be zero, according to Town Meeting documents.
“We don’t want to take the chance on losing out on state funds,” Goodridge said. “They are dissolving the program for reimbursement for sand and salt sheds this year. The size that we need for three of us is pretty large.”
Voters agreed to spend $15,000 this year for their share of the cost.