April 20, 2018
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Houlton budget panel adds $24,500 to plan

By Jen Lynds, BDN Staff

HOULTON, Maine — During a marathon meeting Wednesday evening, the board of budget review recommended some changes to the more than $8.5 million budget for the municipality.

The fiscal forecast now will go before the Town Council for final approval.

The board of budget review looks over the budget and makes recommendations that then are considered by the council. The board has been meeting since late November.

During the nearly four-hour meeting, board members Stan Ginish and Phil Bernaiche requested that a number of cuts be made to the budget, most of which were rejected by the board. In the end, the board ended up adding $24,500 to the budget.

Don Keiser, chairman of the board, said he believed that overall, the budget was “well-done,” an opinion that most other board members shared.

During the meeting, Ginish suggested making cuts to the economic development and consultants line item in the administration budget. He said the town had too many people and groups involved in economic development.

Ginish wanted to reduce the funding in the line item from $50,000 to $15,000.

Board member Dorothy Donahue disagreed and suggested adding $50,000 to the line item to bring the total funding to $100,000.

Fellow board member Phil Bernaiche was against the idea, saying times were hard and that taxpayers could not afford to absorb the increase.

While both Ginish and Donahue’s suggestions were rejected, the board approved a motion to request that the council add $25,000 to the line item, bringing the total funding up to $75,000.

Ginish and Bernaiche also suggested making other reductions to the budget. Bernaiche was unsuccessful in his bid to cut the Police Department’s budget, saying that it was “extremely high.”

Instead, the board actually voted to suggest increasing the Police Department’s budget so the department could purchase a four-wheel-drive vehicle. The board maintained that the vehicle would be useful during inclement weather.

The motion passed with all but Ginish and Bernaiche voting in support of it.

The board also approved a $3,000 increase to the health and social services budget that Ginish had suggested. The board also agreed to suggest contributing an additional $1,000 to the Aroostook Area Agency on Aging, but cut $10,000 from the capital projects budget.

In the end, the board agreed to pass the budget with the $24,500 in recommended increases. None of its recommendations will become final until they are approved by the council early next year.

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