Before Brooks residents began voting on budget questions at their annual town meeting March 20, they got some advice from a familiar figure in town politics.

Raymond Shute, who has previously served as both a selectman and a school board member, told them that with the decrease in state aid to education, the $1,900 increase in the community’s share of the county tax, and the proposed $40,000 increase in the town budget, they were looking at more than a mill increase in their tax rate. He said Brooks did a good job increasing funding for infrastructure over the last few years but said the budget needed to stay level for a year or two and “this is the year we should do it.”

By the time the meeting was over, Shute had won some and lost some as he tried to trim budget lines, but he had reduced the amount to be raised from taxes for the town budget by slightly more than 4 percent.

The budget lines where reductions were made included:

• $1,000 from general administration;

• $1,500 for the assessing agent;

• $1,000 from the cemetery accounts;

• $10,000 from road maintenance; and

• $2,082 from the social services account, deleting funding for Penobscot Bay Medical Center Outpatient Psychiatry and the American Red Cross.

During the discussion of cutting the $1,500 for the assessing agent, Selectman Arthur Butler said the assessing agent inspects new buildings and updates the computer program. He said that increased valuation helps reduce taxes. While not everyone agreed, Ray Quimby said with two rookie selectmen and Butler having just one year’s experience, the town needed the services of the assessing agent.

Following the 26-24 vote to cut the $1,500 for the assessing agent, outgoing Selectman Linda Lord quipped, “Either of the new selectmen want to resign?”

Shute was not successful in decreasing the extra $7,300 for the town clerk/assistant to the selectmen. Butler said the increase was not just for a raise but was also to add an extra 5.5 hours per week to the clerk’s present 29 hours per week. She would also be receiving a pay hike of $1.80 per hour in an attempt to align her pay more closely with that of the treasurer, who has been receiving $3.70 per hour more.

Saying “everyone needs to take a little pain,” Shute moved to limit the increase in the lines for the treasurer and the town clerk to 2 percent. That motion failed 40-29 and the appropriation for officers’ salaries was kept at the selectmen’s recommended amount of $73,140.

Other attempts to reduce the budget that failed were:

• cutting the tax liens appropriation by $1,000;

• reducing the legal fee account from $12,000 to $6,000 or $10,000;

• cutting $5,000 from the waste disposal accounts; and

• eliminating the $500 donation to Broadreach Family & Community Services; the $500 for Waldo County Cooperative Ministry Food and Toiletries Pantry; and the $7,915 appropriation for Waldo Community Action Program.

In the end, the amount cut was $15,582; or approximately 4 percent of the original amount to be raised from taxes, which was $389,295.98.

In other action, Brooks voters:

• elected William “Mike” Switzer to a three-year term on the board of selectmen over current Selectman Ben Lufkin and Darren Mehuren and elected Mehuren to the one-year opening over Lufkin and Tom Bennett;

• elected Shute to a three-year term on the SAD 3 School Board;  elected Susan Champa to a three-year term on the planning board over Richard Shyduroff; and voted Quimby onto the cemetery trust fund committee;

• re-elected Roscoe Kenney as road commissioner; Jeff Archer as fire chief (“probably the best fire chief in the state of Maine,” said the voter who nominated Archer, which drew agreement from the audience); and Butler as address officer;

• accepted an $85,000 Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant for the Independent Brooks Project, despite an initial motion not to accept it. The funds will be used to perform energy audits of some 100 Brooks homes and to do some community education on how to do the work to make the homes more energy-efficient; and

• voted to take $50,000 from surplus and raise $373,714 from taxes to cover the town budget.

The four-hour meeting was moderated by Walter Whitcomb.

filed under: