The Board of Selectmen is considering changing the start date of the town’s fiscal year, currently Jan. 1, to July 1 to match the school district’s fiscal year.

Doing so, they say, would take the guesswork and risk out of setting tax rates before the school budget is available. It would also mean moving the town meeting from March to June.

“Having our town meeting when the biggest part of our budget (the school district) makes their budgetary decisions at a completely different time, in June, we’ve always taken a risk in not knowing what the school’s going to do,” said Selectman Aaron Fethke at the June 20 selectmen's meeting. “Now that it’s just two towns, that risk is huge.”

Before six towns withdrew from Regional School Unit 20 in 2015, any dramatic increase in the school budget would be spread across all  towns, he said. Now Searsport and Stockton Springs bear the full burden of any school budget increase and Fethke noted Stockton Springs might withdraw and join RSU 25, which includes Bucksport.

“We’re gambling with taxpayers every time it happens,” he said. “If we don’t have enough to cover it, we’ll have to have a special town meeting. It would create a nightmare with billing and property tax issues, and at any time Stockton might move to Bucksport. Who knows what’s going to happen?”

Complicating the change is the town’s property reevaluation process, which will change many residents’ tax bills over the next year. Because a change in fiscal year would require a change in the property tax billing schedule for the transitional year — the town would either send a six-month bill to cover the intervening period between fiscal years, or an 18-month bill to cover a year and a half — selectmen worried both actions at the same time would lead to confusion.

Making the change to follow a fiscal year after the revaluation process would allow for more public discussion of the idea. Fethke said the idea had been brought up in the past and residents opposed the idea in a poll at town meeting.

Town Manager James Gillway explained the decision lies with elected officials and would not be up for a public vote, but the selectmen plan to host one or more public hearings before making a decision.

“We want all the input we can get from the public,” said Chairman Jack Merrithew, “because this is a big change.”

The selectmen plan to discuss the issue again at their next meeting, July 6, and set a date for a public hearing.

In other business

The selectmen also began discussing an agreement with the local supervisors union, affecting two town employees in supervisory roles. Gillway said the agreement, negotiated over the past six months, is similar to what is in the town’s policy book, with some differences in disciplinary procedures. The main point of contention was in compensation, and a solution was reached by adding two steps to the town’s wage scale.

The agreement would add seventh and eighth steps, for 25-year and 30-year employees, with 7-percent wage increases each. Selectmen will review the agreement and discuss it at their July 6 meeting. The selectmen also tabled discussion of the 2017 town employee pay scale until the next meeting.

The town received one application, from Sandra Otis-Anderson, for the newly formed Special Events Committee. Her application was approved and Selectmen Doug Norman and Jack Merrithew also were appointed to the committee.

Selectmen authorized the town manager to seek legal advice on a land dispute in which a landowner is trying to add a right-of-way to a deed transfer of property the town later purchased. The right-of-way would cross town property and affect the town’s deed, and Gillway said he thought it was not in the best interests of the people of Searsport to allow this to happen.

The town also is seeking a trainee to assist volunteer George Kerper with TV broadcasting of town events.