Waldoboro Budget Committee member John Higgins proposed a cut to the town’s funding of the Waldoboro Public Library, but was unable to persuade his fellow committee members. (D. Lobkowicz photo)
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By Dominik Lobkowicz
The Waldoboro Board of Selectmen and the town’s budget committee have voted in favor of a $3,858,603 proposed budget, which would be an increase of $148,601 or 4 percent over the current year.
The two bodies met three times over the last week to finalize their recommendations on the budget.
If voters approve the proposed budget at town meeting in June, it would require $1,860,104 in property taxes to fund it, an 8.8 percent increase over last year.
Many of the amounts were approved unanimously and with little discussion, but the budgets for public works, capital reserves, and the Waldoboro Public Library were given a lot of discussion time in the meetings.
In discussions on public works, Selectman Carl Cunningham suggested Director of Public Works John Daigle hire part-time workers to help with snow removal in the winter months to cut down on overtime hours.
According to Daigle, Waldoboro’s plowing crews finish cleaning the town’s roads anywhere from eight to 24 hours after state crews finish with state roads. Those cleanup costs are running up the overtime, and that money would be better spent on more salt, he said.
“I’ve said it before, you’re going to spend it one way or another and it’s costing us more for the cleanup and the overtime than it would for the salt,” Daigle said.
Other towns in the area use around twice the salt that Waldoboro does as part of the process, he said.
Cunningham said he would also like to look at the cost of hiring out hauling winter sand from the town’s gravel pit in Washington to the town garage.
Daigle said hauling sand would necessitate adding to the budget, because the public works employees would spend the time they were not hauling sand doing other projects.
“We’ve been going through this sand thing for years, we’ve done it before. The reason we stopped contracting it out, [was] ’cause it was an over $20,000 extra cost in the budget,” Daigle said.
If the town laid off the public works employees for that time period, the town would have to pay them 100 percent unemployment, according to Finance Director Eileen Dondlinger.
“If we’re paying them, I’d rather see them cutting brush,” Dondlinger said.
The board voted 5-0 to approve Daigle’s recommended $703,217 budget and the committee voted 8- 1.
The budget includes the restoration of about $9,000 in overtime and 1,000 gallons of fuel cut from the current budget, Daigle said. The proposed budget is up $8,178 or 1.2 percent over last year.
In discussions on capital improvements, Town Manager Linda-Jean Briggs said she believes many of the town’s capital reserve accounts are underfunded.
Briggs recommended the board approve the $439,370 request for capital reserves and through the coming year she and town staff would take another look at what future needs will be.
The capital reserve request includes funds from Cushing and Friendship as partners in the Waldoboro Transfer Station, according to Dondlinger. Waldoboro’s share of the total would be $423,909, she said.
If approved, Waldoboro’s share would be up just under $100,000 over the amount voters approved for the current year.
The reserve request includes funding for paving 3.5 miles of town roads, according to Daigle. The town would need to pave between 7 and 10 miles of roadway to get caught up on its paving schedule, which would cost almost $1 million, he said.
Daigle told the selectmen previously that the town has cut back on its paving in recent years, and needs to pave five miles a year to stay ahead of the curve.
It would cost between $100,000 and $120,000 more in capital requests just to pave the five miles, he said at the April 1 meeting.
Budget committee member Ted Mohlie suggested the town use bonds to catch up on capital needs while interest rates are still low.
Once the town’s effort to rebuild its undesignated fund balance is complete in two or three years, the town could then stay on top of building its capital reserves while paying off the bond, he said.
The board and the budget committee voted unanimously to approve the $439,370 request.
The Waldoboro Public Library escaped a cut in funding from the town proposed by budget committee member John Higgins.
Higgins proposed cutting back the contribution to the library from $73,150 to $50,150 because he does not feel the town should pay library employee wages since it is not a town organization.
Cathrina Skov, the library’s director, said the town is already supporting less of the library’s budget than it has in the past, which is a direct result of an effort to lower that need.
The library is asking for the town to fund 57 percent of its operating budget, and figuring in the value of volunteer hours and donated items, the percentage is closer to 47 or 48 percent, Skov said.
The funding is essential because the library cannot predict how well its fundraising efforts will go, she said.
“If you want to have a library in town, you have to have a secure base,” she said.
Higgins compared the salaries paid to library employees to the $68,000 in wages paid to the fire department.
“They put their life on the line every day,” Higgins said. “We get more value out of them than we do the library.”
Skov said the library’s three paid staff members do professional work than cannot be turned over to volunteers.
“I think for what the town pays the library, they get back an awful lot,” Skov said.
The selectmen vote 5-0 in favor of the funding and the budget committee voted 8-1 with Higgins dissenting.