Swanville voters raise, allocate and repeat at town meeting
Swanville — Voters gave a favorable reading to the 2017 budget at the town's annual meeting March 11 but spent some time debating the terminology, in some cases striking selectmen's catch-all language, which often asked for permission to "raise and/or allocate or appropriate funds" for town functions.
Residents asked about the difference between the two terms and others, with some catching on faster, and town meeting moderator Bill Kelly — "Were working off the word 'raise'" — occasionally restating which one was being voted upon.
A glossary of terms
Raise - Collect from new property taxes.
Allocate - Take from what the town already has, usually surplus and/or excise taxes.
Appropriate - Take from somewhere that is not new taxes.
Reappropriate - Take from surplus.
Unappropriated funds - Money in any of the above places.
Surplus - See unappropriated funds.
Carryover - Money from the previous year, dedicated to the specific expense or department for which it was originally raised, allocated or appropriated.
County and school taxes, transfer station operating expenses and the town's contribution to employee Social Security, Medicare, Workers Compensation and Unemployment were all amended to be raised, not allocated.
Other cases saw selectmen and the Budget Committee recommending a combination of sources.
Funding for fire protection and ambulance were suggested to be split between raised and/or appropriated funds with some carryover from the previous year. Voters approved them as proposed.
After a number of such exchanges, one attendee asked reflexively if the vote was to raise or allocate, only to have another deadpan that the request was for a combination of both.
None of this was contentious.
Residents picked the thriftier of two recommendations for the transfer station, favoring the $25,000 proposed by the Budget Committee over the $30,000 buffered budget proposed by selectmen.
The town gave 12 outside organizations a total of $12,324.50, approving the full requested amount in each case. A motion to cut a $500 request from Health Equity Alliance, on the basis that the organization's nearest offices are in Ellsworth and Bucksport and some of its programs are redundant, was struck down after a number of residents defended its HIV and AIDS services.
Belfast Free Library forgot to submit a request, according to Selectwoman Cindy Boguen, who said the town gave $1,600 last year. Boguen said she was told by a library representative that the oversight would not affect Swanville residents' borrowing privileges.
Voters approved spending $550,626.50 on roads from a combination of new taxes, unappropriated funds and surplus. As in many towns, this was the largest expense on the warrant, and according to one resident the first item on Swanville's first-ever town meeting warrant in 1818.
Patching, ditching, mowing and general maintenance of roads got $100,000 from excise taxes and $65,000 raised, as recommended by the Budget Committee.
Boguen, who was re-elected to her second full term March 10 in an uncontested race, got a raise from $6,000 to $7,000 per year, accounting for a large part of the $2,600 increase to the budget for roughly 20 municipal officers.
Voters ratified a change to the Town Charter, making the clerk, excise tax collector, property tax collector and treasurer appointed positions, rather than elected. The amendment was first approved at a special town meeting last October.
Boguen estimated the 2017 budget would be $7,000 to $12,000 less than the previous year's total.