WATERBORO — Selectmen are recommending a municipal budget of $5.1 million to operate the town next year, about $46,200 less than voters approved for this year.

Voters will act on the 40-article warrant at the municipality’s annual Town Meeting on Saturday, set for 10 a.m. at Massabesic Middle School off Old Alfred Road.

The municipal portion does not increase taxes; the RSU 57 budget, validated by voters June 10, increases Waterboro’s contribution to the school district by an estimated $194,000, which results in an overall combined school and municipal budget of $12.8 million.

Town Administrator Gary Lamb said if revenue sharing from the state government arrives as anticipated, the overall 1 percent budget increase of $148,000 would likely result in a 19-cent increase to the town’s current $13.64 mil rate. If that bears out, the tax increase on a home valued at $150,000 would be about $28.

“For the past several years, the board of selectmen has been very cognizant of the impact increased taxes have on the local taxpayer, and this year was no different,” said Selectmen Chairwoman TammyJo Girard. “The original budget presented to the board had increases that would have had a significant impact on the mil rate that none of us were comfortable with.”

Girard said because the town’s annual $120,000 assessment from Ecomaine has been eliminated, it made sense to use the savings to try and keep the budget as flat as possible.

“The fact that the final budget that will go to the Town Meeting floor is $46,000 less than FY14 is the product of a lot of pencil sharpening and hard work,” Girard said.

The budget does contain some changes from previous years. Town Planner Tom Ursia, who has been working a four-day week, will work three days a week starting July 1.

Lamb said that is because work on the town’s comprehensive plan update is winding down.

“We understand that (update) took a huge effort,” said Lamb, but he said with the economy still stagnating, and therefore less planning activity, he and selectmen felt three days a week for planning services would be sufficient. Ursia earned $54,500 this year. The reduction in hours means he’ll be paid $13,625 less starting July 1.

Lamb said Ursia was gracious about the reduction.

Retirement costs are up ”“ but not by much ”“ with the town’s intention to join the Maine Public Employees Retirement Plan. Currently, workers have individual retirement accounts, called IRAs. Lamb said joining the state’s retirement plan helps attract and retain employees. The town’s contribution will increase from 3 percent it paid as its portion of employee IRAs, to 4.1 percent ”“ but with a caveat. Raises to employees, which had been pegged at 3 percent, will be reduced to 2 percent. Employee contributions to the retirement plan will be 7 percent. He said employees can join the retirement plan or keep their IRA, and that the town will contribute 4.1 percent to either program.

The budget also proposes an increase in the town’s public works department. Currently, one full-time employee works under the direction of the elected road commissioner. But the town is switching to an appointed public works director instead. Lamb said he and selectmen agreed that a second full-time worker is needed, and so the director’s position will be a 20-hour a week job.

“This decision was made because of the reality that we have a great deal of road, ditching, brush and garage work that requires a second full-time worker,” said Lamb. “The DPW director will concentrate on oversight for transfer station and DPW projects as well as maintenance and repairs for all town properties.”

Voters will be asked to approve funds for a number of capital improvements ”“ like insulating the ceilings at town hall to reduce heating costs for $15,000, re-siding the old portion of the town hall at $24,000 and $10,000 for upgrading bathrooms in the older town hall facility. About $285,000 has been earmarked for road improvement projects.

Some other items weren’t funded ”“ like a pickup truck with a snowplow attachment, a loader at the transfer station, a replacement for the recreation bus, a replacement thermal imaging camera, gym floor replacement at the older portion of town hall, a salt and sand shed, and more.

“While we do have some CIP projects that were put on the back burner for a year or so, and we are again reducing the hours of the town planner, I think this budget is responsibly conservative given the current economic climate, and I’m pleased with the final numbers,” said Girard.

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 324-4444 (local call in Sanford) or 282-1535, ext. 327 or [email protected]

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