SKOWHEGAN — Residents at the annual Town Meeting Monday night approved spending the recommended $1,324,271 for town government, $1,283,870 for the Police Department and $821,270 for the Fire Department in the coming year. All of the spending lines were recommended by the town Budget Committee and the Board of Selectmen.

Voters also agreed to spend $97,867 for the Skowhegan Free Public Library and $24,000 for the Chamber of Commerce, both of which are hotly debated each year.

Voters went into Monday Town Meeting looking at a town budget for 2015-16 — not including county tax and school district share — of about $10,375,225. The budget approved by voters last year was $8,978,164.

The current tax rate is $17.15 for every $1,000 in property tax valuation. Skowhegan Town Manager Christine Almand said the new tax rate can’t be calculated without final figures from the Town Meeting, the county budget meeting and the school budget validation vote. Early calculations before the end of the Town Meeting had the tax rate unofficially at $18.80 for every $1,000 in property valuation.

State revenue sharing is projected to be down about 4 percent.

Going into the meeting, Almand said residents should brace for the first bond payment from taxation on phase III of the town’s mandated combined sewer overflow project. The $882,732 payment is expected to be part of a 15 percent increase in the overall budget for the coming year.

Almand said the municipal budget — without the sewer bond payment — is up about 5.7 percent over the current budget year, which ends June 30. Spending recommendations by the Board of Selectmen and the town Budget Committee differed on budget increases, leaving the maximum spending increase at 15.56 percent including the bond payment and 5.73 percent on just municipal budget amounts.

Skowhegan voters Monday night also approved $816,065 for solid waste management, $428,936 for summer roads, $586,996 for winter roads, $247,000 for public works vehicle maintenance, and $454,971 for parks and recreation.

Recommendations from selectmen and the Budget Committee differed on the amount of surplus to be used to offset taxes this coming year. Budget Committee members wanted to use $500,000 from surplus, while selectmen wanted to tap $1 million.

Voters agreed last year to take $1 million from town surplus accounts to offset taxes, but with some money not being spent and unanticipated revenue, there still is $3.9 million in surplus to be used.

Residents Monday night agreed with selectmen and voted to take $1 million from surplus.

The Board of Selectmen and the Budget Committee both recommended taking no money from taxation for several of the town’s service organizations, but voters had other ideas Monday night.

Voters approved $3,700 for Kennebec Valley Community Action Program transportation, $8,700 for KVCAP child development, $6,000 for the Family Violence Project, $7,766 for Spectrum Generations for the elderly, $10,000 for Hospice Volunteers, $3,000 for sexual assault and crisis support, and $10,000 for the Skowhegan community food cupboard.

Almand said the majority of the budget increase this year is due to the payment on the sewer bond. The $11.88 million bond to be paid off over 20 years was approved by voters at the 2013 annual Town Meeting. The project, which separates stormwater overflow from the material to be treated at the pollution control plant, is mandated by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

Almand said the town’s first bond payment of about $802,000 was made last year using money from the Sappi tax increment financing, or TIF, district. This year, with the reduction in valuation of the Sappi paper mill, TIF revenue has dried up.

The bond will be paid off in 2033.

Municipal elections are scheduled for Tuesday. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. There are five candidates for two seats on the Board of Selectmen, three people on the ballot for four vacant positions on the school board and three candidates for road commissioner.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter: @Doug_Harlow

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