TOPSHAM

Residents decide Tuesday who gets to fill a vacant seat on the Board of Selectmen.

Three candidates are vying: William Thompson, who lost Nov. 6 in his first run for selectman; James Trusiani, who served nine years on the board before losing out on a forth term in 2011; and Jean Wolkens, who lost a bid to represent House District 60 in November.

Trusiani had planned to run for a three-year term next November. He said he is running now to get his name out there, and to give voters choices to draw them to the polls Tuesday.

With the next budget process already under way, “I think the person (elected) needs to be very rehearsed in the process. There is no window of opportunity to learn. This year I think you need to land on your feet.”

Thompson knew he would run for selectman again because, “I want to show people that I’m serious and I’m committed,” he said. “I’m on the Finance Committee and I think I have a lot to contribute as a selectman.”

Wolkens would like to eventually run again for a statelevel office but is interested in serving as selectman. “I want to see the town I live in and my kids live in to do well and be profitable for them to stay in,” she said.

Trusiani said the budget needs to be approached differently than in the past by focusing earlier on the revenue side rather than giving focus to expenses.

The tax rate increases selectmen proposed the last three or four years have been approved by town meeting, but he doesn’t think it will fly this coming May if selectmen ask for another increase.

Thompson said as a selectman, “I would be striving for a flat budget.”

He’s not saying cut discretionary spending to save a little, but look at the big picture to get the town the biggest bang for the buck: “We need to be smart with our money,” he said.

He added that the town “does an excellent job working with the funds it has,” and doesn’t waste money.

“Cuts” is a word Wolkens said she dislikes. Selectmen need to sit down and figure out where to spend the money it has, with input from the town about where to spend.

Topsham needs to keep up with and should lead the state, she said, “and say we want businesses; we want to keep it where we want it so people who want the rural lifestyle can still have it, but we need to be able to move ahead.”

As a business manager for 20 years, she understands what it means to have a budget, which you don’t increase by raising prices. “We need to increase the tax base by increasing businesses contributing to it,” she said, “not by how much residents contribute in property taxes.”

Thompson said the town faces another big challenge every year: “We can’t allocate enough money to get the roads where they need to be,” and emergency services and the police department always need more equipment.

Town buildings need upkeep, and while economic development will happen, “it’s going to be very slow and it’s not going to pick up enough to make a good dent; at least not in the short term,” Thompson said.

With existing contracts to honor and money owed to the county and school system, “you have a few crumbs left over and you have to be smart how you spend.”

Trusiani also pointed to upkeep of the town’s infrastructure as a challenge, from roads to buildings constructed in the last 10 years. The town needs to put money away for when those buildings get a little older and need repair.

Polls will be open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Topsham Fairgrounds.

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