FAIRFIELD — On Monday, voters will be asked to approve a $5.4 million budget during Fairfield’s annual Town Meeting.

The proposed budget is slightly less than the current one, but the property tax rate, now $19.70 per $1,000 of assessed property value, is unlikely to decrease, because it is also affected by the budgets of the local school district and the county.

Last year, voters approved a budget of $5,449,441. This year, the Town Council recommended a budget of $5,428,959 and the Budget Committee recommended a budget of $5,440,013.

The differing recommendations are related to funding levels for two of the 36 articles on the warrant.

The council and the Budget Committee disagreed on whether to continue funding to the Central Maine Growth Council. The committee recommends spending $12,654 for an annual membership, the same amount that voters approved last year. The council recommends ending membership in the Central Maine Growth Council by not spending any money on a membership.

The Central Maine Growth Council is an economic development organization that provides business development services and seeks to promote regional prosperity.

Fairfield Town Manager Josh Reny, who returns from military duty overseas this weekend, is a member of the council’s board of directors. Fairfield is one of three communities listed as active investors in the council; the others are Waterville and Winslow. The organization also is supported by many large employers in the area, including Colby College, Inland Hospital, and MaineGeneral Hospital, as well as the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce.

The council and the Budget Committee also came to different conclusions about how much the town should spend to support Kennebec Behavioral Health. Last year, the organization received $3,000; but this year, the council has recommended reducing the amount of $2,000, while the Budget Committee has recommended reducing the amount to $600.

Kennebec Behavioral Health provides community-based services to prevention, education, and treatment services to more than 13,500 people in the region each year.

Following either recommendation will result in a slightly lower budget for the town, but the property tax rate won’t be determined fully until the budget processes of School Administrative District 49, Somerset County, and the state are complete.

The county and the school district each receive direct support from local property taxes.

The state budget process will determine the amount of state funding for the school district, which could have an indirect effect on the amount that the district seeks from the town.

In addition, Gov. Paul LePage has proposed eliminating state revenue sharing to municipalities; if that were to happen in Fairfield, Reny said in an email from overseas, it would eliminate $660,000 in expected revenue from the budget.

“If revenue sharing is eliminated as proposed, I suspect the Town Council will begin an intense public debate about how to respond, whether through cuts in services, tax increases, or both,” Reny said.

The meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Fairfield Community Center.

For the first time, the articles on the warrant will include the amount allocated to each budget item the previous year, which Reny said is meant to help provide context to voters.

Reny said this is the fourth year in a row in which the town budget will not increase.

“During the past few years, the Town Council has been focused on maintaining quality services without increasing taxes,” Reny said in an email.

Reny said the town has been able to achieve the flat budgets largely by retiring debt and making modest budget cuts.

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

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