WASHINGTON — Voters will decide later this month on a proposed budget that includes municipal expenditures and revenues hit hard by increases in ambulance services and county administrative costs.

The open town meeting is scheduled to begin 10 a.m. on March 28 at Prescott School. Voting for a moderator for the meeting and for town officers, including a contested race for Tom Johnston’s seat on the Board of Selectmen, is set for 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on March 27 at Gibbs Library.

The town is anticipating municipal expenditures of $929,553 in 2020, a 5.54% increase from last year’s $880,746. The town’s actual expenditures last year were higher, however, coming in at $1,126,275. Selectman Tom Johnston said some funding was carried forward from the previous budget year to make up the difference.

Johnston said some budget lines are slimmer than last year because some small projects were completed. He said the town had a reassessment last year that required more funds going to the assessor’s agent, a line that decreased slightly in the draft budget.

The draft budget shows $490,975 total revenues, a 12.1% increase from last year’s $438,124, spurred by an increase in excise tax and revenue sharing. Both of those figures exceeded the budgeted amount last year, when the town expected $438,124 but brought in $506,315, which include $15,000 in unanticipated excise taxes and a $26,000 increase in revenue sharing.

The municipal side of the budget, less revenue, decreased by 0.91% from last year, while the municipal and county budgets, less revenue, increased by 4.6%. The town is expecting to collect $765,088 in taxes this year, not including the Maine School Administrative District 40 budget.

Johnston said officials from MSAD 40 are still working on the budget. He said he anticipates a 4% to 5% increase from the current fiscal year’s budget, which was $30.2 million, but hopes the district could keep it around 3%. MSAD 40 Business Manager Karen Pike said the town’s local share was $1.7 million in the current fiscal year.

While municipal appropriations have increased, the town is feeling more of the effects of increases outside of its control. The town’s contract with Union Ambulance is seeing a $20,174 increase, from $38,000 to $58,174.

Johnston said Union Ambulance is planning to add a night crew and give employees a raise in an effort to improve response times. He said other ambulance services would be too far away to adequately service the town. When asked if he was worried about the prices of Union Ambulance rising without another service provider, Johnston said he was not.

He said the ambulance costs cut back on the amount of money the town was planning to set aside as surplus for use on projects in the future.

“It holds the line this year, but it leaves us less resources to use in the future,” Johnston said.

The town’s county tax assessment also saw an increase from $160,726 to $174,381, or about 8.5%.

The largest budget increase, outside of county tax and ambulance fees, comes for town roads, which increased $22,200 from last year, going from $391,284 to $413,484. About $12,000 of that increase comes under paving, which Johnston said is a smaller increase than in the past. He said the smaller increase is because the town’s budget committee wanted town officials to utilize reserves, rather than appropriating more funds.

The largest budget cut comes on the under the utilities and building maintenance line, which shrunk 17.3% from $56,250 to $46,500. That decrease is spurred by a mowing contract shaving $3,750 off of the cemetery maintenance line and other completed projects, such as monument maintenance and the purchase of a new sign.

Some of the funding will be used to pave Youngs Hill Road and to repair culverts on Fitch Road, which will be partially funded by a Department of Environmental Protection Grant.

Two warrant articles will decide if the town will replace the broken chassis of a fire tanker and purchase a new plow truck. Voters could authorize $110,000 in borrowing on each article, with an extra $30,000 from a fire truck replacement fund being used for the chassis and $60,000 from the road maintenance truck fund for the plow.

Another article could authorize a refinance of the mortgage on the town garage and authorize the Board of Selectmen to borrow $100,000 for more repairs.

Marijuana ordinance

Voters may also approve an ordinance that deals with the zoning and licensing of marijuana businesses, including marijuana cultivation facilities, retail stores, testing facilities and manufacturing facilities.

Cultivation facilities are permitted in the rural commercial, rural and farm and forest district. Retail stores, testing facilities and marijuana manufacturing facilities are permitted in the rural commercial district, but not permitted in the rural and farm and forest districts.

Applicants must be Maine residents that are older than 21 years old.

Marijuana Cultivation Facilities license will cost 50 cents per square foot, with a minimum fee of $600. Marijuana products manufacturing facilities will also cost 50 cents per square foot, with a minimum fee of $300. Marijuana retail stores have a $1,400 initial fee, but will be renewed for $700. Marijuana testing facilities do not require a license.

Johnston said he expects the adult-use marijuana licensing ordinance to pass. Washington residents voted 410-524 against Question 1, An Act to Legalize Marijuana, in 2016.

 

Editor’s note: This story has been edited to show the correct budget figures after a reporting error.

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