MANCHESTER — Voters will head to Town Meeting on Thursday to consider a $1.8 million town budget that, when combined with school and county budgets, could increase the tax rate by nearly $1 for every $1,000 of assessed property value.

Voters also will decide whether to allow selectmen to use $20,000 to match a state grant officials hope to secure to build a 2,300-foot-long sidewalk on a section of heavily traveled U.S. Route 202 near Manchester Elementary School, multiple ballfields, Fielder’s Choice ice cream stand and the Town Office.

Budget-related items make up most of the 55 articles going to voters at Thursday’s meeting, which begins at 6:30 p.m. at the elementary school.

The municipal budget is up by about $76,000, or 4.4 percent.

Jeremy Pare, chairman of the selectmen, said when the municipal budget is combined with Manchester’s share of the Regional School Unit 38 school budget, which is up 4.6 percent, and the county budget, taxpayers could be looking at an increase in the tax rate from the current $15.35 per $1,000 of assessed property value to about $16.30.

He said for the owner of a $170,000 home, that rate would mean a tax increase of about $152.

“I think that’s a lot, honestly,” Pare said. “I worry about that increase. The past few years we’ve kept the budget flat, or up a little bit, but it’s starting to creep up.”

Pare and Pat Gilbert, town manager, said the $76,000 increase in the town budget is attributable in part to the town budgeting $26,000 to buy sand for use on roads in the winter. Previously, the town got free sand from Pike Industries as part of a past land swap.

Another new spending proposal is $15,000 to replace the Town Office roof. Gilbert and Pare said the roof is so old and worn out that shingles blow off during windstorms. And officials propose to put an additional $10,000, bringing the total this year to $30,000, into a fire truck reserve account because they anticipate a fire truck will need to be replaced within a few years.

Funding for road improvements also is proposed to increase, from $380,000 to $386,000, a proposal only narrowly recommended by selectmen, in a 3-2 vote. Pare anticipates that amount could draw some discussion at Town Meeting.

Gilbert said revenue is projected to increase in the coming year, helping to prevent the need for a larger tax increase. He said total nonproperty-tax revenue is projected to be $752,000, up from the current $718,000.

Selectmen also propose to use $50,000 from the town’s fund balance, made up of money unspent in previous years, to offset the budget’s effect on taxpayers.

One proposal going to voters Thursday would allow the use of $20,000 from the town’s sand-and-salt shed reserve account as a local match to be used if the town is successful in winning an approximately $90,000 state grant to build a sidewalk on U.S. Route 202 from Woodridge Drive, which serves the Gardencrest neighborhood, to Rite Aid, where there is existing sidewalk continuing until the intersection with Route 17.

Pare said the sidewalk would help address the desire, expressed by residents and in the recent rewrite of the comprehensive plan, to make Manchester’s neighborhoods more connected to what is essentially a town hub just off U.S. 202, consisting of the Town Office, the fire station and the elementary school area. He said it also would provide a much safer place to walk alongside U.S. 202, a busy commuting route. He said officials hope the sidewalk would be separated from U.S. 202 by a strip of land, to increase safety on it.

“We see people walking on 202, taking their life in their own hands, just to get from point A to point B,” Pare said, noting if the town doesn’t get the state grant, it wouldn’t spend the $20,000. “After talking with the state Department of Transportation, and the board, it seemed like this could be a good opportunity to start connecting the community better.”

Gilbert said last year the town had a significant amount of work, costing about $40,000, done on the sand-and-salt shed that should extend its life another 20 to 25 years. Selectmen, in a 4-1 vote, recommend $20,000 from the sand-and-salt account be used as the local match for the sidewalk project.

Another $45,000 from the sand-and-salt shed account is proposed, in another warrant article, to be transferred to the fire truck reserve account for the future purchase of a new fire truck.

Pare said the sand-and-salt shed account was built up, in part, with money paid to Manchester by other towns with property on Cobbossee Lake, to reimburse Manchester for work it had done on a dam controlling water in the lake.

Residents will be asked to approve new bylaws for the Manchester Fire Department, following recent modifications voted upon by department members.

They’ll also be asked to approve several changes to the Land Use and Development Ordinance.

The elections are scheduled for 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the fire station. It includes voting to fill two selectmen’s seats. All races are uncontested.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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