MADISON — Residents at the annual Town Meeting Monday will consider almost $300,000 in new spending on capital projects and equipment that had previously been put off while the town waited for a determination on whether a tax abatement was owed to the former Madison Paper Industries.

The total amount of spending on capital projects proposed for 2019-2020 is $587,500, an increase of $298,125. It includes road repairs and the purchase of new equipment for the fire department and highway department.

“These are things we haven’t done for the last five years because we’ve been fighting this battle with Madison Paper over tax abatements,” said Madison Town Manager Tim Curtis. “A lot of funds we would have put towards new equipment or paving roads we were putting aside in case we had to pay that $1 million abatement. Now that case is closed and the state has ruled in our favor we can do these projects.”

In April the state Board of Property Tax Review ruled in the town’s favor in rejecting a request from the shuttered paper mill that it be reimbursed about $1 million in property taxes. The mill had argued town officials had over assessed the property though the state backed up the town’s contention the mill had been properly assessed.

The spending on capital projects is part of a total proposed budget of $3,360,875 that is up 14% from the current $2,883,435 budget.

However, Curtis said a majority of the increase — $400,000 — will come from undesignated funds, and the tax rate is expected to be unchanged at $21.50 per $1,000 of assessed value.

The town meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday at the Madison Junior High School auditorium. Elections will take place Tuesday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Madison Town Office.

Among the 38 items to be considered by voters at the meeting only one item has different spending recommendations from the Board of Selectmen and Budget Advisory Committee.

The committee is recommending spending $44,000 for maintenance of the stormwater system while selectmen are recommending $63,400.

In a video previewing the meeting, Curtis said the difference comes from the Anson-Madison Sanitary District proposing a change to the way it assesses for services.

In the past, the district performed maintenance and repairs and then charged the town in the next fiscal year. This year, however, they are asking to assess a fee ahead of time and make repairs using those funds.

“It is a little bit of a shift and that caused a little bit of a difference between the two boards when the budget was being prepared,” Curtis said.

He said voters will have the decision to make at Town Meeting as to whether they want to continue paying for maintenance after it is done or if they want to follow the recommendation of the sanitary district and pay for work ahead of time.

Also in the warrant for the meeting is a new item asking residents to give selectmen the authority to expend up to $25,000 for unforeseen expenses or emergencies rather than have to call a special town meeting for such expenses.

Curtis said the town has run into instances where more funds were needed in two cases in recent years including the budget for waste management last year, which went over due to the need for extra clean-up following the wind storm in the fall of 2017.

The town also spent more on fuel oil this past winter because it was a long, cold winter, he said.

If the item is passed, any additional expenses over $25,000 would still need approval at a special town meeting.

Finally, residents Monday will also be asked to approve changes to nine different ordinances, including the Animals Ordinance, which sets property restrictions for the owners of farm animals.

“We’ve gotten some feedback on that so we’ve added a variance provision to that so there is a way that if a property owner was using farm animals for their business they could appeal to the appeals board if their property didn’t fit the parameters,” Curtis said.

The town also created a new fee schedule this year that includes updates to building permits, which previously had been $20 but will now be assessed on a sliding scale ranging from $25 to $400.

Ron Moody. Morning Sentinel file photo.

Because of the new fee schedule several ordinances will need to be updated to reflect the changes.

In elections the only contested race is between three candidates seeking two three-year terms on the Board of Selectmen.

Incumbents Al Veneziano, the current chair of the board, and Ron Moody are being challenged by newcomer Don Skillings.

Moody, 72 and a Democrat, is a retired Maine State Police trooper and a former chair of the Budget Advisory Committee. If re-elected, this would be his fourth term on the board.

He said his priority is to keep tax increases low, something that has been a challenge since the Madison Paper closure and ensuing loss of tax revenue.

“My opinion is we have a good town manager, good board of selectmen and we all work well together,” Moody said. “The other big thing is we have a good rapport with the school budget committee that has helped us keep the mil rate down.”

Skillings, 50 and a Republican, is a former selectman in Skowhegan and the owner of Skillings Insurance Agency.

Don Skillings. Contributed.

In Skowhegan, Skillings helped negotiate an agreement with Sappi Fine Paper Co. to cap the value for taxation at the company’s paper mill at $380 million while simultaneously getting the company to withdraw two requests for tax abatements.

He said the experience made him think he could bring value and insight to Madison’s recent negotiations with Madison Paper regarding tax abatements.

While a selectman in Skowhegan, Skillings also said he helped maintain a consistent tax rate “without any large increase at one time.”

“I welcome the opportunity to serve the people of Madison,” he said. “I think we can affect the most change at the local level, which is why I’m interested in being a selectman.”

Al Veneziano Morning Sentinel file photo

Veneziano, 59 and a Democrat, is a teacher at Madison Junior High School and is seeking a fifth term on the board.

If re-elected, he said he looks forward to investing in infrastructure and working with the new developers of a wood fiber insulation plant at the former Madison Paper mill.

“I enjoy the board of selectmen and I enjoy talking to people in town,” Veneziano said. “I think we’ve had some tough times in recent years with budgets. With the mill abatement thing hopefully behind us, we can move on and start to build the town up a little more.”


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