OAKLAND — Residents will vote on joining the Central Maine Growth Council and purchasing new vehicles for emergency services at Town Meeting, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 2, at the Messalonskee High School Performing Arts Center.

The proposed municipal budget is $4.71 million, an increase of 4.7 percent, or $213,000, over last year’s budget. An across-the-board, 2 percent payroll increase for all town employees is the main driver for the small rise in the budget, as well as heat and oil prices and the minimum wage increase, Town Manager Gary Bowman said. Revenue also rose 5.69 percent, he said.

The tax rate will increase only about 0.07 percent, Bowman said.

“We’ve had a good year this year,” he said. “We brought in a lot of new tax revenue.”

The Town Council approved a 2 percent payroll increase for town employees to keep Oakland competitive, Bowman said. The town tries to follow Consumer Price Index levels for the Northeast, which measures the average change in prices over time.

“Our staff is paid substantially under average for towns our size,” Bowman said, adding that the town is facing a large turnover, as at least 10 employees are over retirement age. “We’re making a conscientious effort to get our pay up to average.”

Voters will decide whether Oakland should join the Central Maine Growth Council, which would cost $20,096 per year for two years.

The Town Council recommended joining the economic development group by a vote of 3-2, with councilors Mike Perkins and Dana Wrigley voting against it.

The Budget Committee recommended not joining the growth council by a vote of 3-9 at a meeting on March 9. There wasn’t much discussion before the vote, according to a video of the meeting available online, but committee member Sherry Gilbert said she was voting no to offset paving costs.

The growth council now works with Waterville, Winslow and Fairfield to improve the regional economy. It helps bring in grants, get small businesses started and attract large employers, like Collaborative Consulting, to the area.

The growth council gave a presentation to the Town Council at a meeting in December.

Bowman said there are two trains of thought on the growth council.

The town used to be part of the growth council, he said, but chose to leave because it thought there was a duplication of services and it wasn’t helping the town.

Now the growth council has made administrative changes and brought in “new blood,” he said, which is reflected in its work.

The other train of thought, Bowman said, is that the town “seems to be doing O.K. without them.”

“This is going to be a voters’ choice,” he said, adding that even he doesn’t know how he feels about it.

The proposed Police Department budget is up $37,670 from last year’s, mostly because of the payroll increase. The department also bought two rifles, and the town added $3,000 to hire a representative for union negotiations next year, Bowman said.

The public works budget also increased about $30,700, more than half of which will go toward supplies such as sand. The department’s budget is paid for with excise taxes, state funds and tax increment financing revenue, so it doesn’t affect the tax rate.

The town also is hoping to buy a pickup truck for the Fire Department, a plow truck, a pickup for public works and a police cruiser. The vehicles will be bought using capital improvement funds, fund equity money and excise taxes, so no property taxes will be raised for the purchases.

Madeline St. Amour — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @madelinestamour

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