WINDSOR — Residents approved every spending item put before them Wednesday at Windsor’s annual Town Meeting, including several proposals setting aside money in anticipation of future needs.

The town budget is up $83,700, or 4.76%, due mostly to plans to put additional money into reserve accounts, according to officials.

Town Manager Theresa Haskell said putting the additional money into several reserve accounts was “like putting money away so you don’t have to borrow.”

The reserve funds include a new account for cemeteries, so the town can begin to set aside money for future land acquisition, because its existing cemeteries are filling up. Residents voted to start the new account with a $5,000 contribution this year.

Other reserve account increases include $20,000 for work on a property revaluation and tax maps, $10,000 for fire safety, $2,500 for a fire station reserve and $20,000 for radios.

Haskell said the town has not undertaken a property revaluation in 15 years, and will likely need one in the next few years. She said it could cost about $200,000, and the $25,000 residents voted to add to the reserve fund for a revaluation this year will bring the fund to $65,000.

The radio reserve fund is accruing money to convert the radios used by Windsor Rescue and the town from analog to digital technology, an upgrade she said will be required soon.

“The estimated cost, we think, is about $160,000 just to change over,” she told the roughly 30 residents at Wednesday’s meeting, prompting a few gasps. “Things aren’t cheap anymore, guys. I’m sorry.”

Town Manager Theresa Haskell, left, receives a hug Wednesday from Jeffrey Frankel, the longtime moderator of the annual Town Meeting, after she presented him a plaque honoring his late wife, Dr. Carol Eckert, with the 2021 Spirit of America Award, at the start of Windsor’s annual Town Meeting. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

While town spending is increasing, growing revenues are expected to more than offset spending, meaning the municipal budget will not require a tax increase, according to officials. When combined with a $147,000 increase, about 4.4%, Windsor’s share of the Regional School Unit 12 budget, the total budget is expected to result in a small property tax increase.

Haskell said projected revenues are up about $160,000, which should allow any tax increase arising from the increased town and school spending plans to be minimal.

Selectmen proposed taking $400,000, or $118,000 more than this year, from the unassigned fund balance to help offset next year’s budget. The unassigned fund balance comprises money collected but unspent from previous years. Haskell said even after withdrawing $400,000, the fund balance would still meet auditors’ recommendations that the town set aside enough to cover at least three months of the budget in case of emergencies.

The meeting Tuesday, which lasted about 90 minutes, was preceded by municipal elections, which were all uncontested. Residents elected incumbent selectmen Ray Bates, with 76 votes, and William Appel, with 86 votes; Dustin Mellor, with 70 votes, to the Regional School Unit 12 Budget Committee; write-in candidates Cheryl Pratt, with 11 votes, Carol Chavarie, with nine votes, and Thomas Reed with seven votes, to the Windsor Budget Committee; and Aaron Ellis, with two write-in votes, as an alternate Windsor Budget Committee member.

The meeting got off to an emotional start when Haskell announced the 2020 Spirit of America Award, which the town was unable to bestow last year. The award went to resident Jeffrey Frankel, the longtime moderator of the annual Town Meeting, who has also served on the town’s Budget Committee and Board of Appeals.

Haskell announced the 2021 Spirit of America Award would go to the Windsor Veterans’ Memorial Committee, which raised funds to have a new memorial installed in town, and to Frankel’s late wife, Dr. Carol Eckert.

She was a doctor for the 11 health centers operated by HealthReach Network, and worked for many years at the Sheepscot Valley Health Center in Coopers Mills and Whitefield. Eckert was killed in 2016 while riding her bicycle.

Frankel said the town’s gesture touched his heart, adding, “I’m so touched that she lives on in yours.”

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