Milford defers annual town meeting but elections to go on as planned

Posted June 10, 2013, at 10:21 p.m.

MILFORD, Maine — In addition to filling local elective positions, voters who go to the polls on Tuesday will be asked for permission to spend up to three month’s of budget money so the town can continue to operate beyond the end of this fiscal year on June 30.

That is because town officials have decided to delay the annual town meeting — during which voters approve the annual operating budget — until after the new fiscal year has begun.

The delay also affects the timing of the school budget approval process, the school committee chairman said.

Town Manager Dawn Adams said Monday that Milford selectmen have developed a roughly $2.6 million spending plan for the coming fiscal year, which begins on July 1. The proposed budget essentially maintains basic town services, she said.

Board members, however, voted in May to delay the annual town meeting until mid- to late July because of uncertainties over how much the town could expect to receive in state revenues under Gov. Paul LePage’s budget proposal.

Among other things, the governor proposed the suspension of the state revenue sharing program and major limits on the homestead exemption and circuit breaker property tax relief programs.

Also figuring into the budget crunch is the loss of $6.5 million in formerly taxable property valuation from the Milford Dam, which was the subject of a property tax appeal that former owner PPL Maine won against the town and city of Old Town, Adams said.

In a referendum question on Tuesday, voters will be asked to allow the town to spend the equivalent of up to 3/12ths of the current town budget to cover operating costs from July 1 until the annual town meeting does take place.

“I’m really hoping that people understand that this is not extra money we are asking to spend,” Adams said. “If voters don’t approve this, we can’t spend any money until the town meeting, which means I’ll have to lock the doors of our town hall” and suspend other municipal services, including fire and police protection and the solid waste transfer station.

School Committee Chairman Gary Drinkwater, however, said Monday that he saw no reason to delay a decision on the proposed school budget, which has been completed and is ready for adoption by voters.

“We know what our revenues are,” Drinkwater said. He said the fact that the school committee’s membership could change as a result of Tuesday’s elections could affect the current school budget plan, which as it now stands is lower than this year’s and requires less from local taxpayers but was adopted in a series of 3-2 votes.

According to Drinkwater, school officials have developed a $4,667,131 budget for 2013-14, down more than $220,000 from the current $4,889.745 budget. The local share would decrease from $1,771,116 to $1,503,751, he said.

Drinkwater said that the budget was decreased through several changes that included combining office functions so that a bookkeeper post won’t have to be refilled, the retirement of a longtime art teacher, who will be replaced by a newer teacher at a lower cost, and a reduction in special education hours.

The budget also keeps the Dr. Lewis S. Libby School’s art and music programs intact, he said.

“We put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into this budget,” he said.

In local elections, three residents are running for the expiring three-year selectmen seats now held by Michael Georgia and Scott Libby. Candidates for the positions are Georgia, Gregory Hobson and Cory LeBelle, according to a sample ballot provided by Adams. Libby has decided not to seek re-election, Adams said.

Voters also will fill the expiring school committee seat held by Drinkwater, who is seeking re-election. He is being challenged by Larry Hannan and Virginie Vienneau, the ballot shows.

The polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the town hall.

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