BAILEYVILLE, Maine — Some mill town residents said Monday they would like to have it all — 24-hour police coverage and an active recreation program for their children — but they don’t want their property taxes to go up.
The proposed total budget is more than $3 million, with about $2.3 million to be raised by taxes, but that number could change once the town finds out what this year’s state revenues will be.
Interim Town Manager Dottie Johnson warned that if the town’s share of state revenues were down, it could mean an increase in property taxes. She didn’t know what the increase could be because the state figures are not available yet.
About 15 residents attended a meeting of the Baileyville Town Council on Monday night, where the council heard some specifics about the proposed budget. Councilors and residents were reminded that gone are the glory days when the town had three functioning mills, which at one time paid nearly 90 percent of the town’s property taxes. Two years ago, the paper mill shut down permanently. On May 5, the Montreal-based Domtar Corp. closed its pulp mill indefinitely.
Johnson then reviewed each section of the proposed 2009-10 municipal budget.
She said one way to save money would be for the medical staff in the town-owned medical building to pay the monthly bills associated with the building rather than rent. The building’s operating cost is more than $22,600, while the town receives around $18,000 in rent. “What we asked to do is just to lease the building to the doctors over there and let them pay their own [bills rather than rent,]” Johnson said. “I don’t think they are interested in that.”
Insurance is going up. The town has to insure the wastewater treatment plant against any possible calamity, including an earthquake or other catastrophe. “That will be a catastrophic raise in cost,” she warned.
The Police Department has lost one officer, but Chief Philip Harriman is trying to get grant money to hire two officers through the federal stimulus package. He will know in a few months whether the town is awarded the grant.
Resident Dennis Murray asked whether there would be adequate protection for the town with the loss of one officer. In the past, the town was covered 24-7 by its police department, but no more. Johnson said some of the coverage would have to be provided by the Maine State Police and the Washington County Sheriff’s De-partment.
Newly elected Councilor Jason Fowler, who is a state police trooper, confirmed that the state police and Sheriff’s Department would provide backup. He said the U.S. Border Patrol, based in Baileyville, also would assist in the event of an emergency. “They won’t take the case, but they would be there for us,” he said.
Although the Fire Department’s operating budget went up only minimally, the town is on the hook for a $25,697 payment on the loan for the new firetruck. “Unless we want it [repossessed], we have to pay it,” Johnson said.
The ambulance budget will go up, but not as much now that residents who use it will have to pay for the service. In the past, the town provided free ambulance coverage to residents, but now the cost will be borne by users or their insurance. “If we find out by next year that this isn’t working because people don’t have insurance … we’ll think of another way to do it,” she said.
Johnson said there was good news in the wastewater treatment budget. “The $118,000 extra sewer work has been canceled,” she said. “I asked them [the operators] what was the point of having a wonderful sewer if there was no one in town to use it.”
This year’s annual town meeting where residents decide on the budget has been scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 27, at Woodland Elementary School.