When times are tough and residents are struggling, is it more important to contribute to agencies that offer services they might need or to keep the mil rate down?

That question was the subject of some debate at Waldo’s annual town meeting March 27, and when it came to a vote residents clearly favored the latter. Of the $7,727 in requests for social service agencies on the warrant, only $350 was approved — $100 for Spectrum Generatiions and $250 for Waldo Community Action Partners. Last year, the town approved $5,133 in similar requests.

First Selectwoman Kathy Littlefield led the charge to reject the social-service agency requests. Asked if the reason the town didn’t have to spend any general assistance funds last year was that the social service agencies help out, Littlefield said there were a lot of requests on the warrant that the town wouldn’t be forced to pay for under general assistance. She said the selectmen had worked hard to keep general assistance expenditures down over the years.

A representative from WCAP said Waldo received more than $154,000 in services over the past year.

Littlefield said it was time for families to help families and neighbors to help neighbors. “We need to take care of each other. Enough is enough,” she said.

A voter who works for WCAP said he did energy audits and the priorities for help are the elderly, handicapped and families with children under 2 years of age.

“I know they do good work,” said Littlefield. “But what happens to the middle class who are asked to pay for this? Everyone is reaching into our pockets. … When I read the paper I don’t see job offers, I see foreclosures and bankruptcies. Our pockets are getting drier and drier.”

Second Selectman Gerald Whitcomb, who made the motion to raise $250 for the WCAP programs despite the request for $3,982, said he lived on a fixed income and couldn’t pay more.

Joe Brooks of Winterport, a candidate for the Maine House and a member of the board of directors for WCAP, asked, “Can you reach out just a little bit more?”

Brooks said there were people living in homes where the wind blows through the windows or who didn’t have a furnace that worked. He said those people were facing a winter next year and the recession was not going to be over by then.

Social-service agency requests were not the only ones that were rejected Saturday.

Voters approved the budget lines as recommended by the selectmen, rejecting the higher requests from the fire department and appropriating no funds for the fire department building reserve.

There was also a restriction placed on the $3,600 approved for fire department compensation. The initial motion by Nappy Blais called for no funds to be approved for that account. He said he didn’t know what the criteria were for paying firefighters a $300 stipend each. “Is the compensation for going to school or for going to fires?” he asked. Third Selectwoman Shirley Caler said firemen have to meet a percentage of three criteria: attending training, going to fires and attending meetings.

“Has anyone seen a list of training?” Blais asked.

A member of the department said there were different classifications based on training, which was why the stipend was based on fires and meetings attended. Littlefield said the $300 stipend was voted in two years ago and the criteria for who would be paid was worked out between the selectmen and the fire department. She said the first year 10 firemen were paid and last year, it was 11.

“Does anyone have a list of the roll? asked Blais.

“I don’t know,” said the firefighter who appeared to be the only member of the fire department in attendance at the meeting.

Blais then withdrew the motion for zero compensation and moved to appropriate $3,600, with a stipulation that the fire chief submit a list of the number of firemen who have completed the required courses. He said that list should be in the Town Office, in case someone asked for it and the fire chief was out of town. His motion was approved.

In other action,

• Littlefield reported prior to the start of the meeting that the selectmen had whittled down the budget as far as possible, but said property taxes were still going to rise. She said that was due to legislative cuts in the homestead exemption and a decrease in revenue-sharing. She said the mill rate is apt to increase one-half of a mill without taking into consideration any increases in the school budget.

• Dave Thompson, the Maine School Administrative District 3 representative from Waldo, said state funding for education has been cut significantly. He said half a million dollars has to be cut from this year’s budget to keep next year’s school budget tax increase at 2.5 percent. And he said it’s apt to be worse next year when the district’s state funding is expected to be cut by more than $1 million.

• Voters returned all town officials to their positions, with the only contested race being for treasurer. Kellie Jacobs was returned to the position with 19 votes to 14 for Sandra Smith, who was re-elected town clerk and tax collector. The pay for all positions was held at the same level as the past year. Brent Stapley volunteered to serve as an associate member on the Planning Board after it was reported that one of the present associate members might be moving to Belfast.

• Littlefield indicated she was very concerned that the new vision for the Department of Transportation was going to give Route 131 back to the towns to maintain. She said that would cost the town “big money.” Her warning was backed up by Republican Rep. Mike Thibodeau, who said the transportation budget is under a lot of stress and this is going to be an urban versus rural issue in the Legislature.

• Thibodeau also warned that there is a push in the Legislature to cut $85 million in payments to towns for education and revenue-sharing that is essentially “cost-shifting to towns.”

• Caler reported that the town may have to dig a new well at the community center.

Walter Whitcomb served as moderator for the meeting, which lasted nearly two and a half hours.

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