HOWLAND, Maine — A solid majority of voters approved at a special election on Tuesday the Board of Selectmen’s plan to spend $615,600 on town government operations during the 2009-10 fiscal year, Town Manager Jane Jones said Wednesday.
The municipal government budget represents a $20,000 increase over the present fiscal year, which ends June 30. It is also, Jones said, “as close to a zero-growth budget as the selectmen could design based on the information they had.
“And we will do our very level best to sit within the confines of this budget,” she added.
Exactly 191 residents voted during balloting on Tuesday at the town office with at least a 2-1 majority approving the 44 articles in which the budget’s key elements were arrayed, tally sheets compiled late Tuesday by town workers shows.
The $20,000 increase in spending comes from the Water Department increasing the town’s hydrant rental fees by $17,000 and smaller budget adjustments, Jones said. Voters also approved a $186,000 Water Department budget and a $224,000 Sewer Department budget.
The entire budget will not be set until town officials receive final school budget figures from SAD 31, which serves Burlington, Edinburg, Enfield, Howland, Maxfield and Passadumkeag, and state revenue sharing and excise tax figures from state government, Jones said.
“We are targeting stability, but we don’t have the hard-core facts yet,” Jones said. “The most crucial element is what the state of Maine does, which is tied directly to the economy. The tighter the state is squeezed, the harder the state squeezes the towns. That could have the most far-reaching impact on the budget.”
Selectmen will complete the budget and set a new mill rate by mid-July, Jones said. Howland’s mill rate is 17.4, or $17.40 per $1,000 of valuation. Howland is a small town in mid-Penobscot County bisected by the Penobscot River and Interstate 95 south of Lincoln. It has a population of about 1,200 residents.
Selectmen and Jones are also embarking upon a cost analysis of each town department over the next year, said Michael Harris, chairman of the Board of Selectmen. The analysis will aim to identify potential cost savings and revenue enhancements.
The largest budget cuts come from the Howland Volunteer Fire Department and the town’s solid waste accounts. The Fire Department’s $33,720 account is $14,000 lower than this year’s due to upfront service fees paid by Edinburg, Enfield and Maxfield. The Fire Department covers those towns.
The $51,200 solid waste account is $24,800 lower due to revenue generated by trash bag sales and trash fees and a reimbursement from the Penobscot Energy Recovery Plant in Orrington, which shares revenues created by electrical generation from the trash it burns, Jones said.
No services will be compromised by the cuts.