OAKLAND — Residents of Oakland will vote on a $5.09 million town budget this week, up from last year’s approved $4.75 million figure.

The annual Town Meeting will take place 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Messalonskee High School Performing Arts Center.

The Budget and Advisory Committee and Town Council have proposed raising $2,657,916 from taxation, which represents a 7.86% increase from the 2018-2019 fiscal year. The mil rate has not been set yet as Oakland’s Finance Director Doug Mather said the town is still waiting to hear what they will have to allocate to Regional School Unit 18 and to Kennebec County.

“Based upon a typical increase we get each year from RSU 18, (a small increase in the mil rate) would be a good estimate,” Mather said.

The biggest factor in the overall budget increase this year is a bond payment on the construction of a new $2.6 million fire station that voters approved in November. While the Town Meeting warrant requests $244,421 of tax dollars to be approved for all debt services in the town, including the fire station bond, Mather said that the balance owed “came in lower than what we projected” and that he plans to announce shaving roughly $13,000 from the debt service article Tuesday night. In the 2018-2019 fiscal year, the town paid $95,947 for debt service and related contingency.

“Across the board, there are increases in wages and costs that are higher,” Mather said. “We had to increase the hydrant rental cost, our Waterville dispatch services cost. Other than the debt service, there’s really no one thing that stands out.”

Mather said the warrant reflects a 2% wage increase for town employees and additional pay increases for 5 full-time individuals, including some in the maintenance and administrative departments.

“Part of it is based on merit, and in most cases, just wages are rising really quickly,” he said. “We have to (increase pay) in order just to stay competitive with rising wages.”

Aside from the bond payment, the biggest proposed spending items include: $771,554 for the police department; $672,762 for general government; $415,115 for protection services, which include public safety and code enforcement; $363,028 for the transfer station and recycling services; $337,450 for the fire and rescue departments; $276,460 for property maintenance; $156,104 for recreation and $140,834 for the public library.

There are a handful of articles on the warrant that appear each year, including one asking residents to authorize Oakland’s municipal office to submit grant applications for community development if an adequate opportunity arises. This article also asks for approval to accept the grant funds and implement the program reasonably, which would involve providing some match funds, according to Mather.

Only two of 23 articles on this year’s warrant did not receive unanimous agreement from the Town Council and Budget and Advisory Committee. One member of the budget committee voted against a proposed $20,110 allocation to miscellaneous groups such as the Central Maine Growth Council, Dams Committee, Kennebec Valley Council of Governments, Maine Municipal Association and Snowmobile Club. One member of the budget committee also voted against a $14,100 request for conservation organizations such as the Messalonskee/Snow Pond Lake Association and Seven Lakes Alliance.

“Our Town Meetings generally have gone smoothly without a lot of resistance,” Mather said. “We expect to generate more tax dollars than the net increase in our budget, which is a pretty favorable situation. I’m pretty hopeful that it will be approved.”

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