Letter to the Editor: Budget process needs your attention NOW

**This is strictly MY view point and MY understanding of the current budget process. Peter Bragdon

Budget season in New Gloucester is here.  I have been watching the Selectmen go through the proposed budget the last couple weeks and it has been a struggle.  The budget they have sent to the Budget Committee is a 25% increase for the town.

That said, this really appears to be a bare bones budget over all. 

There is very little Capital Improvement funding for the future, where most accounts already have some money set aside.

But some projects that have small price tags, I myself think should be funded are not. Things like staining the town hall and a new phone system for all town buildings. Our town office is a nationally registered historic building meaning we need to spend the $20k to take care of it. Also we have maxed out our phone system: voice mail boxes are used up, there is no caller ID etc., and the technology is old. This is another $20k I think would be well spent.

Other projects not funded fully are: the Stevens Brook Damn that is in urgent need of repair, and the pond being dredged; replacement of the grossly oversized squad truck (squad 1) that has significant safety issues for responding to calls. Funds to replace this truck are all in “savings” or otherwise known as Capital Reserves. There is a $700k place holder for the Fire Rescue Budget at this time as the selectmen and department leaders have gone back to the table to relook at transport and staffing the department.

Also not included is money to match grants, a building emergency repair account, fair grounds security/improvements, reserves to redesign/build the transfer station to meet safety needs, to name some.

Revenues and state sharing are not predicted to be stellar.  It is proposed to use $500k of the $3.9 million the town now has in Undesignated Funds.

The budget committee starts their work this coming Saturday.

The total mill rate for the town is now $18.50. This breaks down as follows: 74% to school, 22% to town and 4% to county.

Along with the 25% in the town budget, I was told to expect a 7% increase in schools and 2% in county taxes for a total estimated new mill rate of $20.50.  On a $200,000 property you would be paying $4,100 per year or roughly $342 a month in taxes.

I do not write this to take a side. I would like to see more input from town voters at the front end, so that whatever decisions are made reflect what people really want to pay for. Remember, once the budget goes to the town meeting it can only be lowered and not raised.  Usually, town meeting does not change it at all.

The budget committee will be having a public hearing in the near future where you can speak on the budget before it is finalized.  Check out the town calendar for dates.

Please be involved and educated. All opinions are encouraged.   Through out this process we need to be adults and have healthy constructive debates and be able to shake hands at the end.

Thank You,
Peter Bragdon