Edgecomb voters will vote on the education and municipal budgets in the annual town meeting by referendum Saturday, Aug. 29. The vote comes as the selectmen urge residents to defeat aspects of the education budget and the school committee defends it as tax-neutral.
Edgecomb postponed its town meeting from May 16 due to COVID-19. A public hearing on the warrant articles took place Wednesday, Aug. 19.
The warrant has 66 articles that cover town government, public safety, waste disposal, roads, and the school budget. The board of selectmen recommends $89,278 for general government and town expenses, an increase of $19,084 or 27.19%.
The board recommends a $680,424.67 roads budget, up $6,787 or 1% from last year; and $134,537 for Edgecomb’s contribution to the Boothbay Region Refuse Disposal District, up $6,808 or 5%.
The board of selectmen and the Edgecomb School Committee have opposing recommendations on five education-related warrant articles.
“This recommendation has no reflection on the quality of the education being provided or the capabilities and expertise of the teachers and staff,” the selectmen said in a letter to the editor in the Aug. 20 edition. “It is solely based on prudent and responsible fiscal considerations given the great uncertainty now — and for several years into the future — because of the COVID-19 crisis.”
The selectmen recommend a no vote on Articles 48, 60, 61, 65, and 66, because the board expects a significant reduction in tax revenue over the next several years and does not believe the school budget reflects those potential losses.
“Despite these obvious challenges, the school board has submitted a budget that absorbs a large portion of the current year’s surplus while implementing no reductions in programming or operational expenses,” they said in the letter to the editor.
School committee Chair Tom Abello, in a letter to the editor in this edition, said the 2020-2021 school budget carries a 0% tax increase.
According to the letter, Edgecomb Eddy School’s state subsidy increased by $196,791 or 87% this year and tuition revenue increased by 35% because more students from Alna and Westport Island registered than expected.
Additionally, Abello said that distance learning led to a reduction of spending at the end of the last school year and created a surplus in the school budget.
The proposed school budget totals $3,312,286, an increase of $124,786.65 or 3.92% from last year.
Also on the ballot are several uncontested elections. Selectman Jack Sarmanian and school committee member Heather Sinclair are running for reelection for three-year terms. Town Clerk and Treasurer Claudia Coffin is up for reelection for one-year terms at both positions. Scott Griffin is up for reelection for a one-year term as road commissioner. Jack French is up for a three-year term as a planning board alternate. Kim Bachelder, appointed interim tax collector by the selectmen in July, is running as a write-in candidate for a one-year term as tax collector.
The selectmen also recommend the enactment of a new ordinance, the Town of Edgecomb Fire and Rescue Cost Recovery Ordinance.
The ordinance would allow the town to recover its costs for responding to certain emergencies and other events from insurance providers or from a responsible party.
The fire chief would determine the town’s costs. The revenue would go into a fire truck reserve fund. If the town votes to adopt the ordinance, it will take effect Saturday.
The polls will be open for in-person voting from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at town hall. Absentee ballots can be requested by calling the town office between 1 and 5 p.m. on Thursday or by calling the town clerk at 350-0963 at any time. Absentee ballots must be returned to the town office by 4 p.m. Saturday.