FAIRFIELD — Voters at Town Meeting will only be asked to approve the municipal budget for the 2017-2018 year.

The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday at the Fairfield Community Center, at 61 Water St. Town Manager Michelle Flewelling said the $5.6 million municipal budget is a 1.5 percent increase over the current budget. She said the increase is largely a result of increases in health insurance costs and general increases in utilities such as electricity, and gasoline for town vehicles.

Unlike nearby towns that held their Town Meetings in early March, Fairfield’s annual meeting does not include elections. Municipal elections — including those of town councilors, school board members and water district trustees — are held on the second Tuesday of November.

There will be a similar town meeting-style gathering for consideration of the proposed school budget for School Administrative District 49 — which includes Fairfield, Clinton, Albion and Benton — on May 15, with voting by district residents on June 13.

The proposed municipal budget from the council is a little over $5.6 million. The municipal budget that was approved at last year’s Town Meeting is $5.5 million. Flewelling said if the estimated revenue side of the budget, including excise tax and revenue sharing, were not included, the municipal portion to be raised from property taxes is about $2.3 million.

The largest single line item in the budget belongs to the Public Works Department, with a budget of about $1.06 million. That item would get a roughly $17,500 increase, based on the town council’s proposal, but $15,000 of that increase is related to fuel costs. The municipality generally budgets $60,000 for fuel costs for public works, but Flewelling said they actually spend much more than that each year.

Fuel cost was one area in which councilors and the Budget Committee differed in their budget recommendations, Flewelling said. As the budget gets built, the council and the committee meet separately with the department heads to hear their budget requests. Flewelling said even though they may need more, department heads may not ask for the full amount they need, to keep the budget from getting tight. She said the Budget Committee went with the recommendation of adding $10,000 for fuel, while the council went with $15,000.

“And $15,000 is truly, really what is needed,” she said.

Other major items in the proposed budget include roughly $982,000 for the Police Department. The department had requested a little less than that figure, which the Budget Committee recommended, but the Town Council thought more was needed.

The article for the Fire Department seeks nearly $835,000. The department had requested a little over that, but both the council and Budget Committee recommended a figure under that.

In addition to the municipal budget, the town’s portion of the school system budget is about $4.4 million, and its portion of the county budget is more than $931,000. If those figures are added to the municipal budget, the total budget is more than $10.9 million.

Flewelling said the council and the Budget Committee disagree on few recommendations and were virtually identical across the board. One spot where they had differing recommendations was around the annual spring cleanup week, but Flewelling said that was largely so the voters could have a discussion about it.

Every May, the town has a week when residents can place larger household items, such as couches and chairs, out on the curb, and public works will pick them up and dispose of them. In past years this has been budgeted at $20,000, but Flewelling said that does not cover the full cost of the cleanup. When the waste collection, staffing costs, fuel costs and the costs to get rid of the tons of trash are all taken into account, it actually costs closer to $50,000. This year’s cleanup week, which begins May 15, includes a new wrinkle to try to address that. The town is limiting residents to 10 items; in past years there was no limit.

In order to spur a conversation about the future of that program, given the rising costs of disposing of the trash, the council and the Budget Committee proposed different figures. The budget committee proposed the full $20,000, which probably would continue the program in a way similar to its current iteration, although again maybe lowering the number of items a resident can discard. The council, however, recommended $10,000. Flewelling said that probably would fund a one- or two-day free drop-off for residents at Central Maine Disposal, and there would be no townwide collection. Flewelling said the collection service could last under the smaller proposal, but perhaps on a much smaller scale, such as with a limit of two items. She said it will come down to whether residents want to keep the convenience of putting out their larger items for collection, or if they can have a place to take their rubbish and thereby free up public works employees and trucks to do other things.

Fairfield public works employees don’t handle solid waste disposal regularly, so they incur a training expense each year to get them prepared for it. There are also the cost of fuel used to transport the items, safety concerns, potential vehicle damage and increased fees to dispose of the trash.

“We want to be able to still provide the service but make sure folks understand what their tax dollars are really paying for,” Flewelling said.

Colin Ellis — 861-9253

[email protected]

Twitter: @colinoellis

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