READFIELD — A former Selectboard member and a Selectboard hopeful asked the most questions Wednesday when the board and the Budget Committee sought comment on a draft municipal budget that shows a $5,492 increase over the current year’s spending plan.
Andrews Tolman, chairman of the Budget Committee, offered an overview, saying the preparation and scrutiny began in November 2016.
The proposed budget stands at just over $2.3 million.
About 16 people sat in the public area, with five Budget Committee members and four Selectboard members at the table with Town Manager Eric Dyer and Teresa Shaw, treasurer and finance director.
Bruce Bourgoine, chairman of the Selectboard, said the board will take the public’s comments into account when finalizing the warrant for the June 13 Town Meeting, which is conducted by secret ballot.
Allen Curtis, a member of the Selectboard until last June, said he had 11 items to question, including $45,000 to be placed in a reserve account for possible sidewalk construction on Church Road.
“I’m concerned that we’re charging taxpayers money and putting it into an account that’s ‘possible,'” Curtis said.
Bourgoine said that would be the town’s match should the state Department of Transportation approve the project and funding for it.
Curtis referred several times to the fact that he had applied to be part of the Budget Committee but was not appointed to it by the Selectboard.
Curtis also questioned $15,000 set aside for future paving projects and $25,000 for erosion control. Bourgoine told him the latter was for salt and sand.
Curtis also praised the boards for trying to keep the property tax rate down. The current rate is $18.93 for each $1,000 in assessed property value.
Stephanie Rioux, a real estate agent, told the board, “People are avoiding Readfield like the plague because of our mil rate.”
She said Readfield has one of the highest property tax rates in the area and added that since Jan. 1, six residential properties in Readfield were sold, nine are pending sale and 18 are active listings.
She said those are among the lowest numbers when compared to surrounding towns.
However, the effect of the proposed school budget had yet to be determined.
The board of directors of Regional School Unit 38, the Maranacook Area Schools, met Wednesday night as well to finalize its proposed budget.
Readfield, which is part of the district along with Manchester, Mount Vernon and Wayne, is the location of Readfield Elementary as well as Maranacook Middle and High schools. The district had a total enrollment of 1,220, including pre-kindergarten students, as of Jan. 12.
The latest version of the proposed budget posted on the district’s website showed a total of almost $17.4 million, a 5.42 percent increase over the current year. However, the district adjusted the numbers after receiving the health insurance rates last week, and the new totals emailed to Selectboard members Thursday showed that a $17.2 million budget was approved.
Readfield’s share would be $3.6 million, an increase of almost 5.5 percent over the current year.
The budget was prepared with the latest estimates for the state subsidies; however, those have yet to be fixed by the state.
The school board-approved budget goes to a districtwide vote at the annual meeting May 17, followed by a budget validation referendum at the polls, currently set for June 13.
Matthew Curtis (no relation to Allen Curtis), has taken out nomination papers to run for the Readfield selectman’s seat held by Thomas Dunham, who has said he does not intend to run for re-election. Curtis questioned the simultaneous timing of the municipal meeting and the school board session.
He also asked whether the town has a policy for scheduled preventive maintenance on its equipment.
Curtis said he saw several pieces of equipment at the town garage that appeared in need of work.
Readfield resident Dennis Price asked how the town could work with the school district to help keep costs down. Price also has taken out papers to run for selectboard.
Bourgoine said the board has focused on building relationships with the school board and legislative representatives to try to increase the state funds for schools.
Betty Adams — 621-5631