Moscow residents approved a $436,422 spending package for the coming year Monday night at Town Meeting, reflecting an increase in the amount requested by the Upper Kennebec Valley Ambulance Service.

Donald Beane, who was re-elected in Town Meeting voting to his 40th year on the Moscow Board of Selectmen, said all of the articles presented were passed without changes. He said 25 people attended the meeting at the Moscow Elementary School.

“Everything passed the way it was written in the Town Meeting warrant,” Beane said by phone Tuesday. “It was pretty routine. There wasn’t anything controversial.”

The tax rate in Moscow going into the Town Meeting was $19.70 for every $1,000 in property value. The new tax rate will not be known until the county tax and the town’s share of school district spending is factored in.

Beane said miscellaneous items such as roads and snow removal were up marginally, but the biggest hike was in the cost of the ambulance service, which also serves Bingham, Caratunk, The Forks, West Forks, Pleasant Ridge Plantation and parts of Somerset County’s unorganized territories.

“It was up about $20,000 over last year, and it was really the only article that anyone had a real question about,” he said. “The director was there to address it, and it passed without any opposition. They seemed OK with his explanation.”

Moscow residents agreed to appropriate $60,217.81 for the service.

Ian Shalit, who took over as executive director of the ambulance service about seven months ago from Michael Poirier, told Bingham voters earlier this month that shortly after he came on board as executive director, he discovered a “significant financial issue plaguing the service.”

“He said in the past before he came on board that they didn’t really project correctly what they would be taking in for income,” Beane said. “They didn’t take in as much as they thought from the calls and it kind of caught up with them after a while.”

Unbeknownst to the board of directors, the ambulance service was operating at a “significant financial loss,” Shalit told Bingham residents at their Town Meeting March 4. Working with Patrick Dolan, finance manager for Somerset County, Shalit said they discovered close to a $70,000 loss over the past two years that had not been reported to the board.

“After delving further into UKVAS’s finances it was clear that this loss was due to years of overly optimistic budgeting and a significantly lower level of reimbursements for ambulance runs compared to the amount listed on the budget,” Shalit wrote in the report.

In 2017, the service projected insurance reimbursements at $210,000, but they took in only $174,606. For 2018, reimbursements were projected at $210,963 but came in at $171,533.

As a result of the shortfall, Shalit said, the service was forced to liquidate the capital account to cover payroll on three different pay cycles and ensure employees would get their weekly paychecks.

The service has also hired an outside accounting firm to act as a third party in overseeing and providing financial reports for UKVAS on a month-to-month basis.

 

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow

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