Bremen’s annual town meeting is coming up on Saturday, March 28, and voters will decide on proposals for a reduced municipal budget of $814,088 and a slightly increased secondary education budget of $477,082.
Town meeting is scheduled to begin with voting between 8 a.m. and noon at the Bremen Town Center, where voters will decide elections and whether to replace the town’s current clam conservation ordinance.
Selectman John “Boe” Marsh is unopposed in his bid for re-election for a three-year term.
Candidates for four three-year terms on the town’s planning board include newcomers James Boak and Thomas Kronenberger, as well as Walter Voskian, a current appointee to the board.
No candidates turned in papers for lone three-year spots on the school committee or harbor committee, according to Cruz.
The open portion of the annual town meeting is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m., also at the Bremen Town Center.
The municipal budget is proposed at $814,088 for 2015, a decrease of $19,131 or 2.3 percent from 2014.
One of the biggest reductions in the proposed budget is a $65,500 reduction in requests to transfer amounts from the town’s undesignated funds to town reserve accounts.
The selectmen and budget committee recommend transferring $20,000 for the Bremen Town House reserve and $8,000 for the property revaluation reserve. In 2014, voters approved the full requested amount of $93,500 for a number of reserve accounts, including the fire truck, bridges and roads, and capital improvement accounts.
The town’s roads and bridges budget category is also proposed to go down, but the selectmen and budget committee disagree on the amount.
Bremen Project Manager Tom Kostenbader requested the road maintenance and repair line be flat-funded at $145,000, which he said has been approved for the last three years.
The amount, supplemented by $23,000 in carryover funds the town received from the state, would allow for a double layer of chip-sealing, a type of road surface treatment, on the town’s Shore, Muscongus, Storer, and Heath roads, Kostenbader said previously.
The selectmen proposed the line at $110,000, which would fund a single layer of chip-sealing.
“We want safe roads, we don’t need to have the best,” especially when flat-funding the line could contribute to an overall tax increase for the town, Selectman Hank Nevins said in February.
In the end the budget committee recommended the line at $122,000 with a 4-2 vote. With the $23,000 carry-over, the recommended amount would allow for double chip-sealing Shore, Muscongus, and Storer roads and a single chip-seal on Heath Road, Kostenbader said.
The selectmen recommended the roads and bridges category in total at $262,400; the budget committee’s recommendation was for $272,400. The category was approved at $286,000 in 2014.
The town officer salaries warrant article has the largest increase in the budget, proposed at $140,941, up $28,340 or just over 25 percent.
The increase is due largely to the addition of a new deputy clerk position in the town office to help cover the workload, according to Nevins.
The operating accounts category is proposed at $112,500, up $8,406 or 8 percent, and includes a one-time $8,000 request to pay for completing tree removal and erosion control on the town’s Hay property, Nevins said previously.
Two new items on the warrant ask for funding for renovations: one asks for $28,000 from capital reserves for work at the town center, the other asks to raise and appropriate $10,000 for improvements to the fire station.
According to Marsh, upgrading the town center’s bathrooms to Americans with Disabilities Act standards is one of the primary parts of the project, as is securing the bathrooms’ plumbing.
Other changes would include moving walls and improving the layout in the town office area, such as turning the current waiting room into an office and adding a new service window into the building’s main hallway, Marsh said.
The improvements at the fire station would include winterization of the building’s bay doors, electric garage door openers, and an Americans with Disabilities Act-approved shower and bathroom for when the building is used as an emergency shelter.
Secondary education budget
Bremen’s secondary education budget for 2015-2016 is proposed at $477,082, an increase of $6,043 or 1.28 percent over the current budget.
The largest increase in the budget is in the special education category, proposed at $70,029, up $12,409.
Bremen has four incoming freshmen with special education needs, in addition to three current high school students with such needs, according to AOS 93 Business Manager Kati Hunt.
The special education increase would be offset by a $8,587 proposed decrease in the regular instruction category, at $355,858, and the elimination of one of two roughly $4,000 contingencies for students to attend career and technical education at Mid-Coast School of Technology in Rockland.
The “all other expenditures” category includes a new $10,959.74 contingency, which would cover full tuition and other costs for an additional private school student or could help cover any unanticipated special education costs, according to Hunt.
As part of the secret ballot portion of town meeting, voters will decide whether to repeal the town’s current clam conservation ordinance and replace it with a new clam management ordinance.
According to Steve Barnes, chair of the town’s clam committee and the ordinance’s primary author, the proposed ordinance is an attempt to simplify the current ordinance and addresses issues related to the requirement of conservation work and federal labor laws.
Conservation work under the proposed ordinance is optional, and is tied in with seniority for commercial license holders. Licensees with seniority can reserve a license for an upcoming year by pre-paying their license fee.
Under the proposed ordinance, there are two paths to seniority. Licensees who have held their license for the previous five years, or two years for students, would automatically have seniority.
Otherwise, license holders could apply for seniority by applying to the committee and proposing a project consisting of at least 40 hours of conservation work.
If the project is certified as complete, the clam committee is allowed to grant the license holder seniority.
The town would also be allowed to hire people to perform conservation work, and people could also volunteer to do the work.
The proposed ordinance includes a new class of license. Licensees with seniority who are age 65 or older can apply for a senior commercial clam harvest license, which would cost 50 percent of their normal commercial license and authorize them to harvest on odd days only.
Under the proposed ordinance, a new power of the clam committee would be to review all saltwater-shoreland construction permits for possible impact on Bremen’s estuaries, and submit written recommendations to the town planning board.
Concerns were raised about a proposed definition of residency in the ordinance at a public hearing earlier this month, and the definition has since been changed.
The new version defines a Bremen resident as a person currently domiciled in the town who has resided and been registered to vote in Bremen for over 180 days during the past year.
For students, the residency requirements would apply to their parents or guardians.
Bremen’s town clerk and shellfish warden would be jointly responsible for validating a claim of residency and would be required to make a written finding.