FARMINGTON — Selectmen on Tuesday night approved an $8.5 million budget for 2022 that will go to voters at the annual Town Meeting on March 28.

It’s $1.65 million, or 23.65%, more than this year’s $6.5 million. It’s about $650,000 less than the budget reviewed at last week’s meeting. It includes changes made Tuesday to Committees/Events and Community Center department figures.

Part of the budget increase comes from the board’s decision in December to approve a 7.3% cost of living adjustment for town employees. That increase was projected to cost the town just over $177,000.

The board had also asked Town Manager Christian Waller to make recommendations to bring some town employees closer in line with wages and benefits employees from similar size Maine towns receive. Some retirement lines were also increased because several staff are at the age they could retire, Waller said last week. He wanted to retain them for two or more years so their experience wasn’t lost.

Farmington’s pay scale is behind for some employees, Selectman Stephan Bunker said. “Making the leap all in one year is concerning to me,” he said.

Selectman Joshua Bell suggested an across-the-board pay increase of 2% to 5%. Most people who work for the town are underpaid, he said.

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“Farmington is in a unique position, able to set ourselves up well for a large number of years,” Bell said. He urged the board to “tread lightly on spending more than the revenue coming in” or it could be gone in a few years.

This year is the first time Farmington will receive taxes from the solar farm on Routes 2 and 27, the Farmington Falls Road. A $1.37 million payment is expected this year, according to information provided by Waller. In the first 20 years of the farm’s operation, the average annual tax would be $708,902. The average annual tax for 30 years is $520,826 with annual payments of $144,674 during the past 10 years.

That money could be potentially used to fix more roads, Bell said. “Taxpayers are adamant that is the number one issue. People complain about the roads.”

Some catch up is being done in a balanced, conservative approach, Waller said. It’s an investment in the town, he noted.

“The thing we picked were increases to our employees,” Selectman Matthew Smith said. “They’ve been pared down. I’m of the opinion we can support the pay increases put forth, it’s what we asked for.”

Seven new positions were included in the first budget, Waller said. This one has a dedicated office manager for public works, a program staff person for parks and recreation, one full-time person at the community center (currently half-time) and two per diem becoming full-time firefighters, he noted. The latter will provide improved continuity of coverage and save $12,500 per year, he added.

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The first budget provided the best options, this is the better version — midstream as far as pay increases, Smith said.

“We’ve asked (Waller) to take care of these positions, he’s done well,” Selectman Scott Landry said. “We’ve got to take care of our people.”

Selectman Michael Fogg supported the work Waller has done.

Votes taken on department budgets with those pay increases were supported by Bunker, Fogg, Landry and Smith; Bell opposed.

Bunker abstained from voting on the Fire Rescue Department budget because he is a member.

The Fire Rescue Department reserve account for a new fire truck had been reduced $50,000. There is an application for a grant and if it’s not received, the truck will be bonded, Waller said.

Selectmen voted to decrease special projects under Committees/Events by $1,000. Building repairs for the Community Center were reduced by $36,000 because the engineering study for roof repairs had already been approved using American Rescue Plan Act funds.


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