BROWNVILLE, Maine — Even with the loss of about $60,000 in state revenues last year, the majority of the residents at last year’s town meeting said they didn’t want their local services reduced.
Faced with another projected loss of at least $66,000 in state revenues this year, town officials wonder whether that sentiment still stands, especially after hearing from a number of residents who were upset last year when they received higher tax bills.
“It looks like it is likely that we’re going to be put in a position of either having to look at cutting services to the community and-or raising taxes,” Town Manager Sophia Wilson said Monday.
Based on those two scenarios, selectmen want to hear from residents before the budget process begins this year. They have scheduled a public hearing at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 13, at Brownville Elementary School. Town officials hope residents will attend the hearing and voice their concerns.
Wilson said about one-third of the town’s property owners saw significant increases in their tax bills last year and about another third saw a tax decrease because of a townwide revaluation. Those who received tax increases were very upset, according to Wilson.
The public hearing will give those residents and others an opportunity to tell selectmen whether they want to continue with the status quo knowing taxes will increase or whether they want services to be reduced, and if so, which ones, Wilson said. She said the discussion would focus only on municipal services since the town has no control over the school budget, which accounts for more than half of taxes.
A laundry list of ideas to reduce services that was presented to residents at last year’s town meeting is still up for consideration. Wilson said those ideas include pay-per-bag for solid waste, fewer streetlights, a reduction in recreational offerings, reduced police coverage, reduced town office hours, and changes in the winter road maintenance policy.
“The idea is not that the board is advocating any of those things right now,” Wilson said; rather, they want to make sure they understand what direction residents want them to take.
“The board is very clear that their job is to look at how we operate and how we provide services, but it is definitely the community’s desires that are going to drive what we provide for services,” Wilson said.
Based on the comments generated at the public hearing, the board will look at recommendations for the March 15 annual town meeting.