Westport Island residents have the opportunity to participate in the purest form of government when their annual town meeting convenes at 9 a.m. on Saturday, June 24 in the historic town hall, located at 1217 Main Road.
This year, voters have the pleasure of considering a proposed budget slightly less than the current fiscal year. The 2024 proposed budget total of $2,357,561.31 presents a $20,579.55 or 0.8% decrease.
According to Westport Island Select Board member Jeff Tarbox, property taxes are not expected to increase.
This year, voters will see a difference in how questions on the warrant are presented. In past years, budget articles would refer to carryover amounts, or the amount unspent from the current budget.
Beginning this year, the select board is not including carry-forwards in the warrant articles. Instead, unspent funds will go into undesignated surplus at the end of the fiscal year.
This year’s unspent funds, totaling $313,000, are included in Article 4, which asks if the town will vote to appropriate general fund revenues totaling $346,497.30 to reduce the amount to be collected by taxation.
Other revenues included in the article are $3,613.05 from tax interest, $1,074.67 in lien fees, a $4,482.73 tree growth reimbursement, and $24,326.85 in bank interest.
The only carryover on the warrant this year appears in Article 40, which asks if the town will vote to apply $295,000 in available funds for Phase II of the town’s long-term paving program, which involves paving designated sections of Greenleaf and West Shore Roads.
Article 40 funding consists of $173,856.84 in unspent funds carried forward, $6,143.16 from unallocated funds, and raising and appropriating $115,000 for the total.
One of the largest single increases in the budget is outlined in Article 36, in which the select board recommends $203,625 be raised and appropriated for snow removal and the procurement of sand and salt. The figure is a $38,680 or 23.45% increase from the current fiscal year.
Comparatively significant budget changes include administration, which includes town office operations and maintenance, at $66,630, an increase of $6,785, or 11.33%; maintenance and repairs for the town hall totaling $8,100, rising $4,000, or 97.56%; contingency funds of $15,000, an increase of $5,000, or 50%; upgrading the town website, $3,200, up $1,920, or 150%, and $10,000 for certified assessor services, a decrease of $6,000 or 35.7%.
Article 38 queries what sum the town will vote to spend for the maintenance of roads and bridges. The road commissioner and select board recommend $180,000, raising and appropriating the same amount as last year, $120,000, to be combined with $60,000 transferred from unallocated surplus.
Voters will consider several articles setting up new capital improvement reserve accounts, including $35,000 for a fire department reserve account to be used for capital projects that fall outside of normal operations; $6,600 for the sand and salt shed capital reserve account; $1,720.83 for the history committee capital reserve account; and the addition of $10,000 to the revaluation capital reserve account.
Approval of Article 5 would authorize the select board, on behalf of the town, to join with other municipal and quasi-municipal employers to form a partnership to provide health insurance benefits for the town office staff, raising $60,750 for the purpose.
Several budget articles are level-funded including social security taxes, $12,000; the conservation committee, $1,200; the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office Animal Control Services, $3,200; or changed little such as salaries, $121,746, rising $1,338, or .01%.
The select board recommends raising $60,000 for legal fees, a figure level-funded from the current year, designating up to $15,000 for standard legal services and up to $45,000 to cover costs related to Baker Road litigation.
On May 22, the select board agreed to proceed with legal action regarding the alleged trespass by Albert Greenleaf into the Baker Road. Greenleaf allegedly placed obstructions in the roadway in violation of a temporary restraining order issued by the district court.
Articles relating to services from the town of Wiscasset include Wiscasset Transfer Station services, $108,659, rising $8,011.32 or 7.95%; Wiscasset Ambulance Service, $24,401, an increase of $6,257 or 34.48%; Wiscasset Community Center, $4,746, an increase of $438, or 10.16%; and the Wiscasset Public Library at $5,263, an increase of $478, or 9.99% over last year.
Article 41 proposes raising and appropriating $69,000 for the Westport Volunteer Fire Department, a $7,000 or 11.29% increase.
Another question before the voters is whether to accept ownership of the former town dump site, which is offered to the town as a gift from the estate of Lois Day Mason. A study of the site performed by the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection and is available at the town website, westportisland.us, and will be available at the town meeting.
Also on the warrant are amendments to the current shellfish conservation ordinance. The proposed amendments clarify the conservation program and conservation credits for commercial harvesters, add enforcement language as recommended by the Maine Department of Marine Resources, change the licensing period to coincide with the town’s fiscal year, and add a three-day recreational license for residents and non-residents.
In referendum polling on June 13, voters elected first-time candidate Lisa Jonassen to the town’s select board and returned Richard DeVries to the RSU 12 Board of Directors, both for three-year terms, and elected interim Road Commissioner James “Jim” Cromwell to a two-year term.
Voters also validated the $26.4 million Sheepscot Valley RSU 12 budget, including Westport Island’s $946,567.35 local share, accepting a $60,433.59 or 6.81% increase.