Arrowsic residents vote to approve the new municipal budget during the annual town meeting at the fire station Saturday. Kathleen O’Brien / The Times Record

ARROWSIC — About 60 Arrowsic residents gathered at the town fire station Saturday morning to approve the new $968,785 municipal budget, but how the new budget will affect the town’s 9.4% tax rate remains unclear.

The budget for fiscal year 2021 is $48,761 higher than last year. The new, $38.2 million Regional School Unit 1 budget, approved by district voters last Tuesday, is responsible for $35,372 of that increase, according to Select Board Chair Sukey Heard.

According to RSU 1 Business Manager Debra Clark, the new school budget alone will raise taxes 3.25% in Arrowsic. For a home valued at $200,000 in Arrowsic, that will mean a $41.32 tax bill hike.

The new RSU 1 spending plan is up 12.78%, which Superintendent Patrick Manuel said is due to the first payment on the local share of the new Morse High School and Bath Regional Career and Technical Center, which is now under construction. Without the bond payment, the increase would have been 3.11%.

Heard said the remaining $13,389 budget increase is due to stipend increases for some town employees, and covers the cost to place the town’s 5-year-old tax maps, which should be replaced annually.

The town also created two new positions: deputy tax collector and deputy codes enforcement officer. Combined, the positions add about $4,000 to the annual budget.

Heard said the budget increases also compensate for a few regular contract cost increases for various public works jobs, such as solid waste, recycling and snow removal.

“We don’t have a public works department so we have to contract that out,” said Heard.

New selectman

Residents also elected several town officials into office.

Will Neilson claimed the available select board seat in a 48-17 win over Mike McMahon. The election was by secret ballot.

Neilson has been on the town’s planning board for 18 years and was chair of the board for 11. He said he was asked to consider joining the select board due to his experience with municipal government.

“There was a feeling that, with Sukey’s departure, experience and history with town government would be an important thing to get on the select board,” said Neilson. “Duty called and I answered.”

Neilson said he believes being a selectman will be more difficult than a member of the planning board because “the planning board is an administrative legal entity. … It interprets zoning ordinances … but the planning board doesn’t have an executive function.

“When someone doesn’t do what the planning board said, it’s the select board that has to enforce it,” he said. “That’s a tough thing to do, but someone has to do it.”

Now that he has been sworn in and the keys to the town office have exchanged hands, Neilson said his first job is to learn the ropes of his new position. However, his larger focus is ensuring the town receives broadband internet soon.

In January Arrowsic received a $1.2 million investment from the USDA ReConnect Program designed to fund high-speed internet to rural communities. The investment, split between a loan and a grant, will connect all Arrowsic residents, totaling 237 households, 20 businesses and four farms.

Town officials said they don’t know when the project will be complete, but said they hope to have it up and running by next summer.

Brett Jensen was named the new town treasurer after former treasured Mary McDonald stepped down. Barbara Boyce and Jon Biehler were reelceted as town clerk and tax collector, respectively.

Broadband ordinance

Voters also approved an ordinance that creates the Arrowsic Broadband Authority, giving the town full ownership and control over its high-speed broadband internet, which it’s working to create with help from the USDA.

The authority will be responsible for hiring a firm that will build the broadband system and will also oversee the running of the system once it’s built and supplying the town with fast, dependable internet.

“The pandemic has forced us to become increasingly dependent on electronic connections,” selectmen wrote in a July newsletter to residents. “We have found during meetings and information sharing that the service we receive is poor. We are lucky that we received one of the first awards under the USDA ReConnect program.

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