DAYTON — A newly approved budget will mean more than a $2 mil rate increase.

A nearly $4.3 million combined town and school budget was approved Thursday night at a five-hour annual Town Meeting that let out just moments before the stroke of midnight.

The approximately 150 people at the meeting, held at the Dayton Consolidated School cafeteria, went into the meeting facing a potential $3.74 mil rate increase to the current year’s rate of $18.47.

Through actions at the meeting, residents lowered the mil rate to less than $3, though assessor Michelle Boisjoly didn’t have a firm number.

Several people commented about the tax rate going up at Thursday’s meeting.

“My taxes go up just as much,” said Selectman Scott Littlefield in response to comments. “It’s not just you guys.”

Residents voted not to approve a $12,350 increase to the current year’s budget of $186,460 for town staff salaries, board and committee stipends, and Social Security, Medicare and health insurance for employees.

Brad Meserve, owner of a landscape company, commented that he didn’t think the town employees, who work part-time, should get health insurance paid at 100 percent. He said his staff work many more hours and do not get health benefits.

Residents also voted not to appropriate $10,000 for the capital improvement fund.

Resident and former town employee Sue Bellerose suggested a town land account of $124,000, money the town had set aside to purchase land as an economic development tool, should be used instead to offset taxes.

“We’re hurting, our taxes are hurting,” said Bellerose.

It was determined that the fund could not be used for purposes other than to purchase land without going through a procedure that included giving public notice ahead of time.

Dayton’s share of funding for the Goodwin’s Mills Fire Department was approved, though the funding items generated much discussion. Lyman will vote on its share of the fire department funding on Saturday.

The school budget comprised about $2.9 million of the total budget. The upcoming year’s school budget marks the first budget for Dayton as a stand-alone school unit after withdrawing from Regional School Unit 23.

Newly elected Selectman Dan Gay, who served as chairman on the town’s budget committee, said school board members, budget committee members and selectmen all worked hard to get a school budget number they thought was acceptable. The original school budget proposal came in at about $1 million more than last year, and officials worked to get a proposal that was instead about $650,000 more than last year.

Gay said the increase isn’t because the town was adding new programs, or handing out raises or hiring new people.

Gay said there are startup costs this year that the town will not have to pay in future years, as well as debt to the RSU that, once paid off, will not be in the budget. Also, said Gay, the town had a $400,000 loss of state subsidy. He said once the town has a full year as an independent school district, the state will have clearer data and he’s hoping the town will get an increase in subsidy in the future.

Residents voted to approve the school budget, using $150,000 from the town’s undesignated fund to offset a tax increase. This was in addition to the $75,000 town selectmen recommended using from the undesignated fund to offset taxes.

Littlefield cautioned people in using more than the recommended amount, saying that if too much money was drawn from the $600,000 account, there wouldn’t be enough money to cover a town emergency and, as well, the town’s credit rating would go down.

— Staff Writer Liz Gotthelf can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 325 or [email protected]

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