SOMERVILLE — Four people are looking to serve the town said road issues are their biggest concern.

Voters will elect two Selectboard members, decide on the Regional School Unit 12 budget and elect a Town Meeting moderator June 11 at the Town Office. The town’s open Town Meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. on June 15 at Somerville Elementary School.

Chris Johnson, of the Selectboard, said the increasing budget and decreasing revenue could raise property tax rates between $0.69 and $2.00 per $1,000 in property value.

With Third Selectwoman Darlene Landry having stepped down in April, Charlotte Coopersmith and Jarad Greeley are vying for the one year left in Landry’s three-year term. Incumbent Second Selectman Don Chase is challenged by Richard Stimson for a three-year term.

Coopersmith, who is running for her first local government position, said she hopes to be “a voice of balance” in Somerville. She said Friday a controversial bond issue, dealing with the paving of town roads, left some residents upset when some dirt roads were not repaired ahead of paving.

“I’d like there to be more connectivity in the town,” Coopersmith said, adding that she would like to publish an email list and encourage town government to use town tradespeople for local jobs.

A retired medical transcriber who has lived in Somerville for about 20 years, Coopersmith said she would like all bond issues and other important decisions to be done by secret ballot instead of on the Town Meeting floor.

“There’s a lot of people that can’t come during Town Meeting,” she said. “It’s on a Saturday and it’s almost all day.”

Greeley did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Chase, who has been on the selectboard for seven years, said one of his greatest achievements as a selectman was passing the town’s first ever comprehensive plan in 2018. He said, if elected again, he would focus on road issues in town.

“It took us four or five years to put that together and get (the comprehensive plan) passed,” Chase said. “The roads have a lot of issues (and the selectboard is) trying to address (those) issues in town.

He said the biggest problem with keeping expenses down in a small town is the education budget. This year, Somerville’s local share for the RSU 12 budget is up $29,977 — or 4.9% — this year, from $610,513 to $640,490. The district expects Somerville to bring four more students to the district than last year. He said he and fellow Selectman Chris Johnson have worked to keep the budget low.

“We try to make as many cuts as we can and keep the running the best we can,” he said. “Every time education goes up, it takes a lot from the budget.”

Stimson, who drives plow trucks for the Maine Department of Transportation, said he wanted to run for office to get a handle on how money is spent in the town. He specifically referenced the aforementioned road issues and how he felt town money was spent improperly.

“(The roads) should have been fixed up before they put the hot top down,” he said. “If I’m going to complain, I should try to get involved.”

Stimson, a resident of Somerville for 35 years, said he was running for his first government position. When asked why voters should elect him over Chase, he declined to spread rumors or talk negatively about his opponent, instead promising to get the town’s spending “under control.”

“If they want to get the money under control, they will vote for me,” Stimson said.

This year’s total municipal spending plan is estimated at $560,875, a 6.8% increase from last year’s total $524,882. Selectman Chris Johnson said $386,601 is expected to be raised by taxes, a 20% increase from last year’s $307,257.

According to the last year’s and this year’s Town Meeting warrant, municipal revenue is also down about 20% from $217,625 to $174,275.

The town plans to receive more in state revenue sharing and local road assistance, local municipal fees, but will not have as much surplus funding from the current fiscal year as it did last year.

Johnson said $100,000 in surplus funding that was carried into the current fiscal year from fiscal year 2018 and used reduce of property taxes and pay for road projects. He said the current fiscal year’s surplus funding is too low to carry forward into the new fiscal year.
“There is less for deductions, leading to an even higher net municipal budget,” Johnson said. “And there are, also increases in county tax, Local Share of Education, and overlay to rebuild the General Fund to cover operating expenses cash flow.”
Johnson said based on the current budget draft, the mil rate could increase by $0.68 per $1,000 of property value over the current rate of $17.90, but the increase could be higher after Town Meeting.
“We won’t know the full … impact until we see whether townspeople vote to raise more for capital road work on Crummett Mountain Road or other changes,” he added. “Chances are we are looking at more than 2 mils.”

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