BROWNVILLE, Maine — Residents who responded to a survey conducted by town officials late last month made it clear they want cuts to lower 2010 taxes in anticipation of a $70,000 decline in state revenue-sharing funds and excise taxes.
The survey was the town’s innovative way to gauge public support for keeping the budget under control in light of the fact that the choices are increasing taxes because of the revenue loss or cutting the budget to reduce expenditures.
More than 80 people took the time to complete the lengthy survey, which covered all aspects of municipal government. The results were released recently to selectmen.
“The Board of Selectpersons thanks everyone who took the time to share their opinions,” Brownville Town Manager Sophia Wilson said recently. She said the recommendations will be taken into consideration as the selectmen and budget committee continue their budget reviews.
Wilson has presented a municipal draft budget that is about $5,500 less than the current year’s budget and reflects the status quo in services with one exception. She said the draft includes a reduction in part-time office staff. No raises are included in the budget.
“It really is about holding on and trying to provide services in the same way that we have,” Wilson said of the budget draft.
Given the anticipated budget shortfall and considering the survey results, Wilson said the board has some hard decisions ahead.
Of those who responded to the survey, 52 percent said they wanted lower taxes and reduced services.
The majority also supported the following:
ä Eliminating the $4,600 annual contribution to the Brownville Public Library.
ä A reduction in town office staffing, which may result in reduced town office hours.
ä Turning off 50 percent of the streetlights.
ä Shifting from a policy of keeping the winter roads “as close to bare as possible” to one of “clearing the roads enough to be passable.”
ä Stopping winter maintenance of sidewalks.
ä Eliminating maintenance of fire lanes in Brownville Junction.
ä Downscaling the recreation department offerings to only spring and summer activities and eliminating the purchase of T-shirts and trophies for programs.
Residents who responded to the survey did not want to see the recreation programs eliminated, nor did they want to institute a pay-per-bag fee for household garbage to bridge the revenue shortfall.
As for the Police Department, 32 percent of those surveyed wanted to keep the department as is. The remainder wanted the department reduced or eliminated.
Among the comments noted with the police questions, residents said the county should provide more patrol coverage to the eastern part of Piscataquis County.
Wilson said town officials will carefully weigh the survey responses and comments with existing laws, contractual obligations and standards of operation at their next budget workshop at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 11 at the town office. Any recommendations for changes will be presented to residents at the March 15 annual town meeting.