MADISON — Residents at Town Meeting on Monday will be asked to consider a proposed $2.6 million municipal budget that includes the elimination of the town’s curbside recycling program.

The $2,646,328 budget is down about $46,000, or 2 percent, from the current budget.

The closure of Madison Paper Industries, the town’s largest taxpayer, last month was announced in the midst of planning for the budget and forced the Board of Selectmen to make additional cuts, such as the elimination of the recycling program, Town Manager Tim Curtis said.

“We’ve been trimming items from the budget for the last three years now, since 2014,” Curtis said, referring to the year when the mill’s valuation dropped. “The news of the closing of Madison Paper just continues to force us along that way.”

The Town Meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday in the Madison Junior High School auditorium. In addition to acting on the budget, residents will also be asked to consider modifications to four town ordinances and the adoption of a local foods ordinance.

In April, the town’s Budget Advisory Committee backed the board’s decision to eliminate the curbside recycling program — a cost of $38,000 — despite pleas from some residents to keep recycling.

Less than 10 percent of the town’s homes and businesses participate in recycling, according to Curtis, a number that he said influenced the decision.

“If people want to pay a private contractor for that service, they can, but the feeling was that the taxpayers shouldn’t be paying for it,” Curtis said.

Residents also have the choice of taking their recyclables to the Skowhegan transfer station or to Waste Management in Norridgewock at no cost.

Solid Waste and Recycling Advisory Committee Chairwoman Mary Tomlinson said she disagrees with the proposal to eliminate recycling and that while she has heard only a few complaints, the people she has heard from are upset.

“One elderly woman called me and said, ‘It’s going to go in the trash,’ because she can’t make the trip to Norridgewock,” Tomlinson said. “I think it’s an important service and it should be offered. There are many people who can’t make the trip to dispose of their recyclables, particularly the elderly and disabled.”

The proposal to eliminate recycling is part of an overall $120,000 in programs and projects that the board decided to cut after receiving news of Madison Paper’s closure. The cut also includes $75,000 that originally had been budgeted for a street repair project on Heald Street.

Town Office employees are receiving a 2 percent cost-of-living raise, but Curtis said employees also will be asked to contribute 10 percent more toward their health insurance costs in 2016-2017. “Really, the slight salary increase doesn’t quite cover the cost they’re paying additionally for health insurance,” Curtis said.

The town also has eliminated two part-time Town Office positions and will not be filling a vacant part-time highway department position. Overall, Curtis said, the total costs for town employees is down from $859,044 for 19 employees in 2015-2016 to $757,196 for 16 employees in the coming year.

Monday’s Town Meeting also marks one year since residents approved a police consolidation plan with the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office. Curtis said the town plans to continue contracting with the sheriff’s office for police services. The proposed cost is up $4,000 from 2015-2016. Curtis said the town plans to renew the contract for an additional year on July 1.

In the long term, Curtis said, Madison is in stable financial condition despite lingering questions about the closure of Madison Paper. The town board of assessors has been in discussion with the mill over a possible drop in valuation on top of a $150 million loss in 2014. Curtis said that drop in value — which caused an increase of $2 per $1,000 of assessed valuation in the town tax rate — had the largest effect on the town.

“At this point we really don’t know (what will happen),” he said. “Madison Paper is in the process of taking bids and preparing the property for sale, and we really won’t know how that all works out for several months.”

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm


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