NEW GLOUCESTER — After several weeks of back and forth between the Selectboard and the town manager, the board approved an $8 million budget Monday that cuts the property tax rate by 9 cents and restores four town positions slated for elimination.

The $8,026,188 budget reflects a 0.53% decrease from the current fiscal year’s budget of $8.07 million. The town’s contribution to the SAD 15 budget will decrease by about $41,000 to $5.7 million.

The projected tax rate is $16.81 per $1,000 of property valuation, a 9-cent decrease from the current tax rate. The owner of a $250,000 home in New Gloucester can expect to pay $22.50 less in taxes, for a total of $4,202.50.

Because the annual town meeting will not be held due to COVID-19 health concerns, residents will vote on it by ballot July 14.

Town Manager Brenda Fox Howard increased expected revenue from excise taxes by $100,000, saying the previous estimate of $850,000 was overly cautious. She also added $20,000 in Federal Emergency Management Agency funds to the budget.

The budget reinstates positions in the Public Works, Planning, Parks and Recreation and Library departments. The Public Works department position will remain at 40 hours while the Parks and Recreation position and the town planner’s position will be cut back from 40 hours to 36 hours per week. These positions include benefits, but will be hourly instead of salaried.

At the New Gloucester Public Library, the director’s position will be cut to 36 hours with benefits and the assistant librarian’s from 40 to 20 hours without benefits. A cut to the director’s hours wasn’t part of the previous budget, but Fox Howard took that action to save some hours for the assistant’s position, which had been up for elimination, she said.

Carla McAllister has been the assistant librarian for 12 years. Despite her supporters being by far the loudest at public hearings, her position is the only one that will be part time without benefits.

The Selectboard’s decision “speaks for itself. There was no equity,” she said.

McAllister runs several library programs, including the annual Pet Show and First Thursday Book Club. In a letter to the Selectboard, she listed the Interlibrary Loan program, cataloging and circulation, and patron support among her many duties.

When the library moved to its current location in 1998, McAllister said, it was with the understanding that it would need two full-time librarians to run it. Now, she said, “it’s just going to be hard to do anything more than just the vital things.”

Public Works Director Ted Shane declined to say which of the department’s eight positions would be cut, but he said eliminating any job “certainly would reduce the amount of work we could get done” in terms of both their summer projects. In the winter, Shane said, response time to snow plowing needs would be reduced.

Town Planner Scott Hastings said he is not sure yet what impact a reduction in hours would have on his job. Hastings is the department’s only full-time employee and heads a bevy of committees, including the Planning Board, Comprehensive Plan Committee, Land Management Committee and Economic Development Committee.

Morgan Rocheleau, Parks and Recreation director since the fall of 2018, is the department’s only employee who worked full time. He told the Lakes Region Weekly on Tuesday that he saw a $10,000 line-item for programming on the approved budget, but said he hasn’t received clarification on what that will be for. His department runs several summer camps and after-school programs, including a cheer program, “Mad Scientist” and Lego Robotics program. Rocheleau said that about 50 to 60 people enroll in their summer camps.

At Monday night’s meeting, Selectboard members commended Fox Howard for her work.

The amended budget passed 4-1, with Tammy Donovan voting against. Donovan said she could not vote to approve the budget without the assistant librarian position returning to full time.

Fox Howard said by phone on Wednesday morning that if voters reject the budget at the polls on July 14 in favor of the assistant librarian’s position, it will go back to board for revision. She added that reinstating the position at 36 hours a week would likely result in an increase of less than a percentage point on the tax rate.

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