SKOWHEGAN — Voters in Skowhegan will soon decide on a proposed municipal budget that reflects a nearly 8% increase to current spending.

The business portion of the annual Town Meeting is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. Saturday, June 5, at the Opera House in the Municipal Building at 225 Water St.

The secret ballot election is set for 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, June 8. Absentee ballots are now available and can be dropped off at the ballot box outside the Municipal Building.

The proposed budget represents a $1,003,734 increase to the $12.6 million municipal budget voters approved last year, according to Town Manager Christine Almand.

Big-ticket items on the 68-article warrant include $1,828,889 for general government; $1,798,599 for the Police Department; and $1,194,936 for the Fire Department.

In elections, Harold Bigelow, incumbent Todd Smith, incumbent Roger Staples and Daniel Swain are running for two available three-year terms on the Board of Selectmen. Robert Haynes and Jennifer Olson are running for two open spots for five-year terms as Coburn Park commissioners.

Craig Belliveau and Donald Kinney Sr. are seeking the three-year term for town road commissioner, a position Greg Dore has held for 29 years. Dore has announced he will retire after his current term.

Mark Bedard, Lynda Quinn and Amy Rouse are running for four open spots on the Maine School Administrative District 54 board of directors. All three now sit on the board.

The increase in the budget is largely driven by three changes, which include a roughly $640,000 expense added to wage and benefits to cover five new positions, a $140,000 increase in payment to debt retirement and a $117,000 increase in the capital reserve fund.

Almand said Friday two of the five positions proposed have already been put into place at Redington-Fairview General Hospital. However, the cost of the positions is offset by revenues received from the hospital, so there is no net increase.

Town Manager Christine Almand of Skowhegan.

Two other proposed positions are at the Skowhegan Fire Department: A deputy chief/building inspector and a firefighter. Having the building inspector at the Fire Department would also benefit the town because the position can work in concert with the code enforcement officer, according to Almand.

“The second position at the Fire Department will allow us to have three firefighters (one captain and two firefighters) on shift 24/7,” Almand said, “which provides increased coverage on the weekends.”

The final proposed position is for a custodian at the Community Center on Poulin Drive.

Voters will also decide on an increase to the debt retirement proposal. This is the first year the town must make a payment on the public safety building bond. Voters can also expect this amount to increase as much as $592,000 next year, after which the amount is expected to decrease.

“We’ll see an additional increase next year, but it will decline every year after that,” Almand said. “What we do with our bonds is a level principal payment so that each year, our payments go down.”

She added that at previous public hearings, town officials explained to voters that “2023 would be our highest payment on that bond.”

“Fortunately, we did get a good interest rate on the bond that will save us over $1.4 million over the life of the bond,” Almand said.

Almand said most budget cuts were made last year because officials were unsure how to plan, given the coronavirus pandemic. What has changed, though, is use of more surplus.

Three proposals are offered, Almand said:

• The Select Board has recommended $700,000 go toward reducing the tax commitment, and $700,000 go into the Ballfield Compound Reserve Account.

• The Budget and Finance Committee has recommended $500,000 go to reducing the tax commitment, $800,000 to the Ballfield Compound Reserve Account and $500,000 to pay down debt faster.

• The town manager has recommended $700,000 be put toward reducing the tax commitment, and $700,000 be put into the Ballfield Compound Reserve Account.

Almand said it is too early to know what the property tax rate might be because the town awaits more information, such as projections on state revenue sharing.

The budget request from MSAD 54 is up about $238,000, and while the Somerset County budget is down, Almand said Skowhegan’s local assessment is up by more than $109,000, reflecting a $347,000 increase to local taxes.

Voters will also decide if they want town officials to sign an agreement to approve of the relocation of Memorial Field Complex from East Maple Street to the property between the Community Center and Skowhegan Area High School.

“This is to solidify the agreement with the school district that we will deed to them Memorial Field property,” Almand said, “yet they’re going to give us funds to relocate our fields.”

At the Board of Selectmen meeting Tuesday, Almand is expected to ask selectmen to allow her to apply for a 6F property conversion to meet requirements needed to relocate the fields.

North Elementary School at 33 Jewett St. qualified for the state’s Major Capital School Construction Programs. MSAD 54 officials have been working with the town, architects and others to find a location for a new school because the 2.1 acres on which North Elementary sits is not big enough.

A recommendation has been made by the MSAD 54 Building Committee for a consolidated elementary school to be built where Margaret Chase Smith School now sits.

To accomplish this, the district would have to acquire Memorial Fields, which is in an area reserved for recreational purposes.

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