Skowhegan residents raise their hands to cast their votes on a warrant article at Skowhegan’s town meeting on Monday. The meeting lasted more than four hours. Jake Freudberg/Morning Sentinel

SKOWHEGAN ­— Voters spent more than four hours Monday night debating a proposed budget of more than $17 million and other municipal business at the annual town meeting, but ultimately approved most of the Board of Selectmen’s proposal.

Residents shaved off $40,000 from the general government budget in the only amendment to budget warrant articles that succeeded at Monday’s meeting, which drew more than 200 voters to the Skowhegan Opera House in the municipal building.

Spending approved by voters totaled $17.53 million, compared to the selectmen’s proposed $17.70 million spending plan. The proposal was a 1.84% increase over the budget approved last year.

But much of that difference, aside from the $40,000 reduction, was a result of a typographical error on the meeting warrant and voters will return later this month to correct it.

The amount listed in Article 3, for general government, was short about $158,000, town officials said. The listed amount of $2,265,924 should have been $2,423,995.

“The honest answer is that the person who typed this was overworked, hadn’t had much of a break, was here late nights, working through lunches, and made a typo,” said Town Manager Dawn DiBlasi, who has held the job for about a month. “Basically, what was voted on by the select board and the budget committee is not the number that was put into Article 3. It was a mistake.”


Skowhegan town officials sit on the stage as residents listen and discuss the town’s budget and other business at town meeting on Monday. Jake Freudberg/Morning Sentinel

According to town meeting procedures, the amount listed in a warrant article cannot be increased by amendment, though it can be decreased.

As a result, a special town meeting will be held Tuesday, June 25, to ask voters to raise and appropriate the $158,000 shortfall, DiBlasi said. The Board of Selectmen was expected to sign the special town meeting warrant at its meeting Tuesday night. DiBlasi said that town officials apologized for the error and hoped that residents will attend the special town meeting to resolve the problem.

The general government article, which includes several administrative departments and other costs, also kicked off a marathon meeting of discussion as voters scrutinized the proposed budget.

Residents asked about increasing costs in town insurance, the assessing department, and municipal building maintenance in a discussion that lasted nearly an hour.

A motion failed early in the discussion to amend the article to $1 million, with 78 in favor of the change and 126 against it.

Another amendment to reduce the listed warrant amount by $40,000 passed with 130 in favor and 92 against. The amendment was made in response to concerns about a new $40,000 budget line for landscaping of town property, which town officials said was previously included in the recreation department budget.


Later in the meeting, an amendment to the fire department budget that would have reduced it by $20,000 — the requested increase in overtime funding — failed.

The amendment came as residents asked about the fire department’s response to medical incidents and mutual aid response to other towns.

Fire Chief Ronnie Rodriguez said that the department’s call volume has increased significantly in recent years and the department responds to medical calls that emergency dispatchers deem severe enough based on a scale.

“If we’re called to help, we’re going to help,” Rodriguez said.

The $180,000 in proposed overtime — a $20,000 increase over the budget approved last year — was necessary to maintain sufficient staffing, the chief said.

“Our coverage is going to suffer,” Rodriguez said in response to a question about the potential impact of the attempt to reduce the department’s budget.


Funding for the Skowhegan Free Public Library also drew lengthy discussion and a failed amendment.

The library, an organization independent from the town, requested $198,000 by petition. The Board of Selectmen recommended $175,000, with some members citing concerns about the increase in the library’s request and the library’s failure to seek other funding such as grants as its leadership once said it would do.

“I’m not going after the library, but I am going after the board of directors,” Selectman Steven Govoni said. “You guys have failed your mission. … I don’t think you guys are going after that grant money.”

An amendment to the $198,000 request to match the $175,000 recommendation by selectmen failed, and the full $198,000 was approved.

Voters who supported the full funding request said that the library is an important cultural institution in the town and provides resources such as internet, which some residents may not have access to otherwise.

The library has, in fact, secured several grants for renovation projects to its building on Elm Street, Library Director Angie Herrick said. This year’s request from the library reflected a $3,000 increase over last year, Herrick said.


“We’ve raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants for these renovations to keep the library up and running,” Herrick said. “And now we’re up and running and we’re fully staffed.”

In other town business, voters approved a new tax increment financing agreement for the Spinning Mill redevelopment project in downtown Skowhegan. Two minor updates to the town’s floodplain management and sign ordinances were also approved.

The impact of this year’s spending plan on the property tax rate has yet to be determined, town officials said. Assuming that the error in the general government article is corrected at the June 25 special town meeting, the amount to be raised by taxation in the approved budget would represent an approximately 3.56%, or $520,000, increase over last year.

Voters approved the use of $260,000 in available fund balance to offset taxation at Monday’s meeting.

On Tuesday, voters were expected to head to the polls for municipal elections, which include a five-way race for two seats on the Board of Selectmen and two residents running for Road Commissioner.

State primaries and the Maine School Administrative District 54 budget referendum were also scheduled for Tuesday.

Editor’s note: A previous Morning Sentinel story published ahead of town meeting incorrectly reported the total spending figure recommended by the Board of Selectmen and percentage increase because of an error in the town’s published budget book.

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