CLINTON — Town Meeting voters will decide on Tuesday, for the second year, in a row whether fixing a number of roads that are in rough shape is worth a 99-cent increase in the property tax rate.

The meeting is conducted via secret ballot, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the Town Office banquet hall.

After voting 321–277 to reject an article last year that would have supplemented $135,000 for road repairs, Town Manager Warren Hatch hopes Clinton voters will realize the necessity of fixing some roads.

“We’re emphasizing that … we have many roads in bad shape and there has been no capital improvement the last few years for us to fix these roads,” Hatch said last week. “The reason we’re not stating what roads (to fix first) is because we don’t know what our funding will be.”

Last year the article that was voted down included which roads would be repaired first.

Approving the additional repair work would increase the property tax rate to $16.25 per $1,000 of assessed value. The additional cost annually to the owner of a $100,000 home would be $99. The current property tax rate is $15.26 per $1,000 of assessed value. If all articles are approved, the town budget would be $2,078,707, on par with last year’s budget of nearly $2.1 million.

“We’re hoping we’ve put enough information out there for them to know the roads need improvement,” Hatch said. “We’ve had a lot of people come in and say ‘When are you going to fix this road or that road?’ At this time, I’d say the roads need the most attention.”

Hatch said the selectmen brought up the idea of fixing the roads via a bond paid out over 10 years, but decided to find out first what voters decided about raising the $135,000 on its own.

“We could put $700,000 in the roads and not have them all fixed,” Hatch said. “We need to think of something long-term. We would like to do something with what we have this year and make a plan for the future. We can either bond the rest of the roads to get them all fixed at once or we can piecemeal and try to get $135,000 each year to go along with the $65,000 and do the best we can. But at some point, we need to fix all the roads.”

Hatch said a special town meeting could be called later to discuss using a $1 million bond to fix the roads, depending on the outcome of the annual meeting.

In addition, Clinton — along with other Maine communities — doesn’t know how much funding it will receive from the state in Gov. Paul LePage’s proposed budget. Municipal revenue sharing ensures that towns don’t rely too much on property taxes. While state law says towns should receive 5 percent of Maine’s income and sales tax receipts, the Legislature has reduced that amount in recent years to help balance the state budget. In LePage’s biennial budget proposal, he called for suspended municipal revenue sharing.

Hatch said the Budget Committee originally submitted a budget to the selectmen featuring no state funding. The budget that was submitted in the warrant is more optimistic.

“The Board of Selectmen issued a budget based on it receiving state revenues,” Hatch said. The state revenue the board expects is $193,000 in municipal revenue sharing, as well as an additional $160,000 in other reimbursements and programs.

Said Hatch, “If we don’t get the revenue sharing, then we’ll have to reach into the undesignated surplus balance.”

Another article to be voted on asks voters to take funding from the reserve account to make up the difference in loss of state funding. Hatch said there was $659,236.65 in the reserve fund as of June 30, 2012, which was up $131,000 from the year before. Given the proposed budget submitted by the Legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee, Hatch said he expects 50 to 60 percent of the anticipated state sharing to be allocated to Clinton.

“It may not work out in our total favor, but we should get some type of revenue sharing back and we should get some reimbursement from the other programs. We just don’t know (how much) yet because they have not finished their job,” Hatch said about the Legislature.

If all 36 articles are approved and Clinton received no state funding, the property tax would increase $2.01 per $1,000 of assessed value. Hatch wasn’t able to put a figure on the increased property tax if Clinton were to receive state funding until that total was known.

Clinton voters also will consider allocating $37,884 to make the third of four payments on a police cruiser lease and the second of 10 payments on a firetruck lease.

Two selectmen’s seats are open. Incumbent Ronnie Irving, Ruth Mattson and Eva St. Jean are seeking a two-year term, while Justin Cote and incumbent Jeffrey Towne are running for a three-year seat.

Jesse Scardina — 861-9239
[email protected]

 

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