RICHMOND — When Richmond residents vote on June 4 at Town Meeting, they will see warrant articles drafted in a slightly different way.

This year, the Board of Selectmen’s proposed spending plan totals $2,012,881.

Adam Garland

At Monday’s public hearing on the Town Meeting warrant, Town Manager Adam Garland said the budget reflects a $28,661 increase in the town’s operating and capital budgets. In addition, town officials are seeking authority to spend $40,000 from the town’s vehicle replacement reserve fund to replace a police car.

The plan reflects adjustments across all town departments, Garland said, including spending less on administrative costs, a decrease in what the town pays on its debts, increases in negotiated town salaries and health insurance, and a $16,000 increase in the contract for ambulance services with Gardiner Ambulance.

This year, the town’s Budget Committee has had a difference of opinion on spending. In four instances, the Budget Committee is recommending spending nearly $48,000 more than selectmen, among capital outlay, the Fire and EMS Department, the town’s vehicle reserve fund and the Recreation Department. The committee’s proposed spending plan totals $2,060,746.

Garland said because of concerns he’s heard about fairness, the warrant articles have been drafted to include the higher recommendation, giving voters the chance to decide whether they want to approve the higher amount or to go with the selectmen’s recommendation. Because of how the warrant articles are worded, voters can approve spending less than the warrant article proposes, but they cannot increase it.

“By putting the higher amount in the warrant article, it gives voters the chance to vote on the higher amount,” Garland said.

Peter Warner, who serves on the Budget Committee, asked how the motions on those questions would be handled. If the motion comes from the Board of Selectmen, he said, the opportunity for debate on the different suggestions would be limited.

Selectman Robert Bodge said in those instances, selectmen would look for a member of the public to make the motion.

O’Neil LaPLante, chairman of the selectmen, said he’ll have no heartburn if voters favor the higher spending level.

“That’s the whole purpose of what we’re doing here,” he said, “to bring information forward, present it to the voters and let them vote on what we think is the best possible procedure.”

That spending will be paid for by a range of revenue sources, including excise taxes collected, fees and funding from the Maine Department of Transportation for roads. But the largest share, $1,264,735, will come through the property tax.

While the budget numbers from Sagadahoc County and Regional School Unit 2 are incomplete, Garland said he doesn’t expect the current property tax rate of $19.55 per $1,000 of assessed valuation to change much. At that level, a house valued at $150,000 would pay $2,933 in annual property tax, excluding any exemptions.

Garland said he expects only a minimal increase in the property tax rate, if any increase happens at all.

The warrant also contains a suggested change of policy.

As it now stands, if selectmen want to use the town’s vehicle reserve account to buy or finance a vehicle, they must hold a special town meeting for voters to authorize that spending. Garland said Article 31 would lift the requirement for a special town meeting; instead, the selectmen would be required to hold a public hearing on the proposed purchase.

“Funds are raised and appropriated and placed in the reserve account at Town Meeting, but the town has to go back to Town Meeting again to access this money to spend,” Garland said. “It’s completely understandable the town wants to be good stewards of the money.”

At Monday’s public hearing, resident Michael Grizkewitsch questioned how that came to be on the warrant. When he wanted to put something on the warrant, he said, he was told he needed to collect a certain number of signatures and submit them no later than 90 days before the Town Meeting.

LaPlante, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said the board approved it when it voted to approve the warrant.

Garland said the citizen’s petition process is triggered when the selectmen decline to include a proposal on the selectmen’s warrant.

The warrant also includes proposed amendments to Richmond’s land use ordinance to reflect changes in state law regarding marijuana, providing definitions for different allowed businesses, removing references to social clubs and identifying where those business may locate and with what level of approval.

Town Meeting is scheduled to take place at 6 p.m. June 4 in the Richmond High School gymnasium.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.