MADISON — Residents approved a $3.3 million budget Monday that will allow them to invest in new equipment and capital projects that previously had been put off during a period of uncertainty after the closure of Madison Paper Industries in 2016.

The $3,297,375 budget, with an increase in spending of $413,940, is not expected to affect the current tax rate, as $400,000 of the increase will come from undesignated funds. The town also received lower tax assessments this year from the county and school district.

About 70 people attended Town Meeting at Madison Junior High School.

Among the items approved was $587,500 to be spent on capital projects, an increase of $298,125 from the current budget.

That includes funding for new highway equipment, Fire Department equipment and road repairs.

Town Manager Tim Curtis said since the state Board of Property Tax Review ruled in the town’s favor in rejecting a tax abatement request from the former Madison Paper Industries, money that had been put aside to pay for the abatement now can be spent elsewhere.

“Since the abatement is no longer active, we can use those funds to pay for some of these capital projects,” Curtis said. “So there won’t be a huge impact on the taxpayer.”

One item that generated debate was two differing proposals, from the Board of Selectmen and the Budget Advisory Board, on funding for storm drain maintenance with the Anson-Madison Sanitary District.

The selectmen proposed $107,500, the amount requested by the district, while the advisory board recommended $44,000.

Curtis said the difference was a matter of the district asking the town to pay for storm drain maintenance and repairs up front as opposed to after the maintenance has been performed.

“The sanitary district is asking to have that money ahead of time,” Curtis said, adding it’s just a “change in philosophy.”

Some residents said they didn’t think the town should pay ahead of time for services to be rendered, and the lower number ultimately passed.

“Basically it’s a projection, not a solid number,” resident Heidi Burrows said. “We’re paying for services not yet rendered, so we’re paying for something we haven’t seen yet.”

Sanitary district Superintendent Dale Clark, who was at Monday’s meeting, said the sanitary district has been “taking a hard look at our costs” and is looking at changing its assessment for the town to pay for more costs that previously had been shouldered only by sewer ratepayers.

“It’s a stipend to help the sanitary district meet their budget, and the people in the country should not be doing that,” resident Paul Fortin said. “I don’t believe we want to start doing that, sending bills from the town out to the people in the country.”

Jack Ducharme, the only member of the Board of Selectmen who voted against the sanitary district’s increase to maintenance fees, said he did so because the board of the sanitary district is, by its rules, made up only of people who are ratepayers.

“Whether you approve the $107,000 or the $44,000, the idea that the people who are not represented on that board (would have to fund an increase) bothers me,” Ducharme said.

The article regarding storm drain maintenance fees was the only item changed by residents Monday.

Also approved was $58,400 in funding for general assistance, community programs and service organizations, including $14,500 for the People Who Care Food Cupboard.

The cupboard, which shut down for two days in May amid complaints about leadership, has re-opened, the group’s new board chairman, Jeffrey Sproul, said at the meeting.

“We have re-organized the board and made some changes,” Sproul said. “The food cupboard is open and operating.”

Residents Monday also approved changes to a number of town ordinances. Changes for one ordinance, shoreland zoning, were rejected after Curtis told residents the changes had not been finalized.

Elections were being held Tuesday at the Madison Town Office.

The only contested race is a three-way contest for two seats on the Board of Selectmen. Vying for the positions are incumbents Al Veneziano and Ron Moody and challenger Don Skillings.

 

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