WEST GARDINER — The municipal portion of property tax bills could rise by 2.2 percent if West Gardiner voters approve all measures presented on the Town Meeting warrant later this month.

The town’s current property tax rate is $11.90 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. For a house that’s valued at $130,000, for example, the property tax would be $1,547, barring any exemptions. The Town Meeting is March 16.

It’s too soon to know what the new rate will be because both Kennebec County government and School Administrative District 11 are now working on their budgets, which are slated to be approved  before the July 1 start of the fiscal year.

Greg Couture, chairman of the selectboard, said Selectman Mert Hickey always aims to keep what’s raised and appropriated from property owners capped at about $400,000.

“It keeps us fairly grounded and keeps things down there as much as we can,” Couture said. “Usually our expenses aren’t bad, and we’re able to do that.”

“I think we’re in pretty good shape,” Hickey said. “We probably dumped about $100,000 back into surplus.”

“That helps with reducing the amount of money we have to borrow each year,” Couture said.

“You don’t have to borrow so much if the school could give us their figure right now, and we could send out our tax bills right now and people could pay right now,” Hickey said, “but everything doesn’t happen right now.”

The fiscal year in West Gardiner runs from Feb. 1 to Jan. 31, 2020.

In all, selectmen are proposing to spend $1,229,407. Of that, $440,730 would be raised and appropriated from property tax, $751,300 would come from excise tax, $23,000 from surplus and $14,377 from other sources.

“We see our excise tax increases each year,” Couture said. “When you have a few businesses that have a lot of vehicles, it’s good for the town and helps keep our property taxes down.”

Along with spending for salaries and insurance for town employees, and other routine expenses, the warrant seeks money to continue to maintain the town’ s roads in winter and summer.

Selectmen are asking for $40,000 to take down the old town garage. The building is leaking and it can’t be used for another purpose. Last year, money was designated for repairs to the sand shed. The funds that were not used were carried forward to this year, and more is being sought to tear down the garage and build a salt shed.

“(Road Commissioner) Gary (Hickey) likes to have an extra load of salt if the roads are bad,” Couture said.

The warrant also includes funding requests for winter and summer road maintenance, debt service on buildings and other routine spending.

Couture said one proposal that may be controversial is a request for $20,000 to help enforce cleaning up some properties in West Gardiner that are are in violation of the state’s Junkyard Ordinance.

“It’s not very neighborly. You have to keep your property reasonably clean,” he said.

While the ordinance offers some protection, it covers only vehicles and not the range of other things that are left outside and that can affect neighbors’ properties.

“I like to think the town will support us,” Couture said. “I haven’t heard anything negative.”

The town sent letters in the fall to some violators, he said, notifying them of the town’s intentions.

“Maybe some of them will show up and talk against it,” Couture said. “That’s fine. We want to hear sides of the story.  That’s good. That’s what people should hear.”

Voters will also be asked vote on proposal to declare West Gardiner food sovereign. If the measure passes, producers of some food products in West Gardiner will be able to sell them to their neighbors without needing to undergo inspection by state agencies. In Kennebec County, Augusta, Mount Vernon and Litchfield have passed food sovereignty ordinances.

They will also be asked to vote on the proposed Fire Department Service Restitution Ordinance.

‘That would allow us to bill insurance companies for car fires or hazardous spills at the rest area,” Couture said, to pay for materials and equipment used.

Both Interstates 95 and 295 run through the east part of town, and the West Gardiner Service Plaza — with restaurants and a gas station — is accessible from both roads.

Earlier this year, West Gardiner selected Ernest Price as the new Fire Department chief after Gary Hickey II stepped down from that position. With his appointment, Couture said he hopes the town can start developing a plan to replace its aging fire trucks and secure grants.

In West Gardiner, voting for candidates takes place in the morning. Polls are open from 8 a.m. to noon.  The Town Meeting takes place in the afternoon in the West Gardiner Town Hall on Spears Corner Road.

This year, all the races are uncontested. Randall Macomber is running for re-election to the Board of Selectmen, Carrie Boudway is running for re-election to the School Administrative District 11 board, and Sue Pierce is running for re-election as the tax collector and treasurer. All are three-year terms.

 

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ


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