OAKLAND — Voters approved spending $20,096 to join the Central Maine Growth Council and a 2 percent payroll increase for town employees among other items at Town Meeting on Tuesday evening at Messalonskee High School.

The approved municipal budget is $4.71 million, an increase of 4.7 percent, or $213,000, over last year’s budget, according to Town Manager Gary Bowman. The 75 to 100 voters at the meeting approved each article, he said.

Because revenue also increased by 5.69 percent, the tax rate will increase only about 0.07 percent, he said.

Much of the increase was driven by an across-the-board 2 percent pay increase for town employees. The town tries to follow the Consumer Price Index levels for the Northeast, Bowman said, which measures the average change in prices over time.

Bowman also said the staff is paid less than average compared to full-service towns similar to Oakland. As many town employees near retirement age, the town has to ensure its pay rate is competitive, he said.

Joining the Central Maine Growth Council will cost the town $20,096 per year for two years. The growth council has worked with Waterville, Winslow and Fairfield in recent years to improve the regional economy. It helps bring in grants, get small businesses started and attract to the area large employers, such as Collaborative Consulting, which has since been bought by CGI Group.

While he was indecisive about joining, Bowman said he’s now excited to start working with the Growth Council.

“Hopefully they’re going to bring an ingredient to the table that’s going to make us even better,” he said.

Oakland was part of the Growth Council in the past but left because residents thought it was providing duplicative services.

The Town Council voted 3-2 to recommend rejoining, while the Budget Committee voted 3-9 against the expenditure.

Bowman said there was “45 minutes of passionate discussion” at the meeting about whether to join the Growth Council. Some thought it was a smart decision, given the groups’ new leadership and management and the results it has produced, he said, while others thought Oakland has been doing well on its own.

Madeline St. Amour — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @madelinestamour