Notes from selectmen's meeting

Searsport delays fiscal year budget change

By Fran Gonzalez | Nov 24, 2018

Searsport — Selectmen approved pushing back the start date of the fiscal year budget change to 2020 at their Nov. 6 meeting.

Previously, selectmen voted to change the town's fiscal year to match the state and school district's fiscal year starting in 2019. However, the town’s property reevaluation process this year increased many residents’ tax bills.

Now, an 18-month transitional budget will be presented at the March 2020 annual town meeting to support town operations from that meeting until June 30, 2021.

The 18-month budget will save the town money by not having to pay interest on loans to cover the period between the annual town meeting and tax collection time, Town Manager James Gillway previously said.

Gillway said he wasn't advocating for delaying the fiscal year budget change, but said "it might not be the best year to get it underway since we are one year into a new tax season."

"I would suggest delaying one year to get another tax billing cycle out there and a little more information to the public about what their taxes will look like with an additional six months added to it," Gillway said.

Selectmen Doug Norman and Mark Bradstreet both said they have spoken with residents who expressed concern about already having to pay more from the reevaluation and worry the new 18-month billing cycle would "break them."

In other business

The Searsport Comprehensive Plan has been completed and will be sent to the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry in Augusta for approval.

There is "a huge amount of information that went into this," Gillway said. "They have done an incredible amount of work over the past several years."

Norman said, "Now that it's over, it looks easy, but I know it took a lot of work. Thank you."

Selectmen approved funding to purchase fireworks for 2019. By paying in December, Gillway said, the town will receive 10-percent more shells from the fireworks supplier. 

A Searsport fire truck will be on loan to West Frankfort Fire Department, whose truck was involved in a rollover accident en route to a fire scene earlier in October.

According to Gillway, "Searsport is in a unique position of having an extra truck."

He said Searsport Fire Chief Andrew Webster asked to loan the truck to West Frankfort for "at least the winter."

Selectmen asked about how insurance would work in a case like this.

"It's not unusual to loan apparatus to other communities," Gillway said. "We do have to notify Maine Municipal Association where it will be stored. They are both covered by the same insurance."

Gillway reported Searsport Police Chief Richard LaHaye Jr. underwent a follow-up surgery and that "everything is going well." He expects to be back at work as soon as they "untie him from the bed."

As of Dec. 1, residents using the transfer station who do not have a window sticker on their vehicle will not be allowed in the facility.

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