VEAZIE, Maine — Voters here made some cuts to their municipal operating budget for 2013-14 and adopted an education budget as presented during their annual town meeting Tuesday night at the Veazie Community School.
Interim Town Manager Mark Leonard said Wednesday that voters zeroed out a $100,000 budget line for road and street work, deleting one of two redundant budget items for another $13,000 and reducing the line for insurances and unemployment, he said. Although an exact dollar figure was not immediately available, the municipal budget now amounts to approximately $1.8 million.
Also during the town meeting, residents adopted a nearly $4.27 million budget after several failed attempts to reduce it by the full $200,000 requested by town councilors. Veazie school officials came up with $100,000 in budget cuts but said in May that to cut any more would have an adverse effect on the quality of local education.
Tuesday’s annual town meeting started about half an hour after its scheduled 8 p.m. start time because of the unusually large crowd that turned out, which Leonard pegged at about 175. It did not wind down until nearly midnight, he said.
Some of the debate that slowed things down were several attempts by residents to temporarily adjourn action on municipal budget items until later this month, by which time the town is expected to have a better understanding of how much Veazie can expect in terms of state revenue under Gov. Paul LePage’s biennial budget plan, which calls for deep cuts — and in some cases the temporary suspension — of such programs as state revenue sharing, and the homestead and circuit breaker property tax exemptions.
In the end, however, residents went on with the budget approval process.
Among the budget reductions that proved unpopular with many in town was the council’s 3-2 vote to cut $60,000 from an already reduced fire protection budget that Fire Department supporters say will result in the loss of one or both of the department’s full-time employees.
In the days leading up to the town meeting, a group of Fire Department supporters circulated fliers and campaigned door to door urging voters to reject the Fire Department budget as a way to force town councilors to rework it.
During the town meeting, however, Thomas Russell, the town’s legal counsel, advised residents that the town charter lacks a mechanism for funding departmental budget outside the annual town meeting. To that end, had residents voted the Fire Department down, the department would have been left with no operating dollars for the coming fiscal year, which begins on July 1.
During a Town Council meeting before the town meeting, councilors appointed a five-member committee to explore restructuring the Fire Department.