SABATTUS, Maine — Town meeting voters on Saturday agreed to move away from leasing police cruisers in favor of setting aside money each year to buy them outright.
Town Manager Andrew Gilmore said voters approved the city’s $2.3 million budget, as recommended by selectmen. It represents a 1.73 percent spending increase and a property tax rate increase of 52 cents per $1,000 of value. The new budget takes effect on July 1.
Voters also followed the selectmen’s lead, approving a $317,301 capital budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year. Members of the town Budget Committee had called for a slightly smaller budget that would have spread out the cost of a new $42,253 police cruiser over the next three years.
Gilmore said it represents a change in town policy. All of the current police vehicles were bought through a lease-purchasing deal, spreading the costs out over time.
“We want to move away from borrowing money for short-term purchases, especially when it comes to police cruisers that need to be replaced every few years,” Gilmore said. “Instead of continuing to pay interest, we’ll buy the new cruiser outright this year and each year now we can put $10,000 to $15,000 away to buy a new one in the future. We’ll earn interest on that money, instead of having to pay it.”
Voters took the Budget Committee’s advice when it came to turning down a $355 increase for the town’s code enforcement office. Gilmore said selectmen had favored increasing the budget to $38,000, but voters agreed to flat-fund it at $37,645.
“It’s the same level it was this year, so we’ll just have to get by with it,” Gilmore said. “Thankfully, it’s a very small budget to begin with. We won’t have to change anything.”
Gilmore said voters approved the selectmen’s recommendation on the budget’s other 50 warrants. Highlights include:
• A proposed increase in the Police Department budget from $420,609 to $443,472 — half for payroll and half to reimburse education costs.
• The Sabattus Veterans Memorial Park Committee was approved for $1,500 in seed money to raise funds for site work and a new monument.
• The Transfer Station budget was reduced by $7,000 to $177,248.
• Dispatch and E-911 charges will increase from $32,180 to $53,250, including an estimated $10,000 charge for E-911 services from the county and costs associated with moving dispatch to Lisbon.
Gilmore said voters also approved an ordinance banning fireworks in town when open fires are banned, so-called Class 4 or Class 5 “no-burn” days.
“If you can’t get a fire permit to burn, you can’t discharge fireworks,” he said. “Other than that, we don’t restrict them. Everything else follows state law.”
Open-fire bans are noted on the State Fire Marshal’s website and the town’s sabattus.org website. Signs at town hall and at the fire station also will note when a ban on open fires has been declared.
Gilmore said he was considering creating an email service to let residents who sign up know about fire bans and other news.