Two open seats on the Oakland Town Council have drawn five candidates with different takes about how to manage the town’s budget and its future.

Voters also will decide a ballot question that would amend the town’s charter to make large expenditures require voters’ approval in November rather than at Town Meeting in May.

The candidates are former school superintendent Don Borman, 62, an incumbent; financial and computer consultant Anne Hammond, 61; school secretary Angela Jurdak, 44; executive assistant Kelli Roderick, 48; and retired power company manager Dana Wrigley, 71, an incumbent.

All five candidates agreed that the town needs to do everything it can to be more efficient when spending taxpayer money, but they had different priorities and thoughts about the budget.

Borman, who also has been involved with the McGrath Pond Salmon Lake Association for about 12 years, said lakes and ponds play a major role in the Oakland’s future.

“We all want to have quality of life, and the tax base of Oakland is very much dependent on the water quality,” he said. “We basically need to maintain our shorefont to maintain our economic base.”

Environmental initiatives can help Oakland by making it a more attractive place to visit and live, he said.

Borman said freezing property taxes while maintaining town services is unrealistic.

“That’s not possible,” he said. “The prices go up. I’m looking to balance what’s best.”

Former auditor Hammond said she thinks that the town would spend money more efficiently if public participation and scrutiny were increased. She advocated policies that would encourage that.

“I come back to getting the town involved in decision making and total transparency,” she said. She led a petition drive about broadcasting the town’s public meetings and requiring that large town expenditures be decided by voters in November instead of May.

Hammond said that the current council members have not been receptive enough to ideas from the public.

She suggested that the town draw on high school classes to help provide technical services, such as an improved website or the broadcasting of its meetings.

The property tax rate, she said, needs to be kept “at a reasonable level that folks can afford to pay. That’s something that we absolutely have to do.”

Jurdak said residents have to be protected from rising property taxes.

“I live on a road where I see a lot of foreclosures. I see a lot of liens,” she said. “Some of these decisions could make the difference in being able to keep your home.”

She criticized the current council as being too lenient with expenditures.

“They pretty much approve everything,” she said. “Whatever they say yes to, we have to pay for it.”

Jurdak said she doesn’t think a flat budget is realistic but that increases could be kept to a minimum. She cited a municipal complex that voters rejected last year as an example of something taxpayers can’t afford now.

For Roderick, who has been heavily involved with local school organizations, the school is an important part of the solution for the town’s budget woes.

“My mission, my goal is that I’d like to see the town of Oakland and the school district have a better working relationship and try to look for more efficiencies and collaborations,” she said.

For example, she said, the school and the town could buy more items jointly, including office supplies.

She said the town’s community spirit is being lost in fiscal conflicts.

“They’re all fighting for the same tax dollar,” she said. “I think it’s unfortunate.”

Wrigley, who has served on the town’s budget and advisory committee for 25 years, said the town has managed to keep its tax rate lower than those of most comparable towns in the area. The property tax rate in Oakland is $13.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value, which Wrigley said is lower than Waterville’s rate of $25.65, Fairfield’s rate of $19.70 and Winslow’s rate of $15.50.

The challenge, he said, would be to “maintain the budget at a reasonable level” in the face of rising costs.

He said he would continue to be diligent in reviewing the proposed budgets of departments and taking out the unnecessary items.

With a recent sewer project completed, the renovation of Summer Street under way and the municipal complex rejected, he doesn’t see any new major projects coming up in the near future.

Voters also will be presented with a ballot question that came about as a result of a petition circulated by Hammond. If approved, the town charter will be amended so that “any single expenditure of $1,000,000 or more shall be decided by a secret ballot vote in November.”

Hammond has said she thinks the town’s big financial decisions should come before voters at the polls rather than during the annual Town Meeting in May, which typically has fewer participants.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling — 861-9287
[email protected]

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