During a meeting of the Wiscasset Board of Selectmen and Wiscasset Budget Committee on Monday, Feb. 10, much of the discussion was about restoring a position to work on economic development and planning.
The selectmen and budget committee appeared to be in favor of including either a part-time or full-time position in the budget.
Budget committee member Judy Flanagan said a planner could help attract businesses and write grants, and the town does not know how much it might have lost by eliminating the position.
Selectman Katharine Martin-Savage spoke on the need for a planner to help update town ordinances.
Judy Colby, chair of the board of selectmen, said the town has to do something soon, or residents will not be able to live in the town and afford their homes.
Colby mentioned a proposal to redevelop the former Wiscasset Primary School as housing, as well as efforts to clean up the Mason Station site for potential redevelopment. She also said the town’s volunteer boards and committees struggle to do their work without the help of a planner.
Budget committee member Kim Dolce distributed a handout to the selectmen and budget committee showing that the town’s property tax rate has risen from $16.40 per $1,000 of valuation in the 2015-2016 fiscal year to $19.90 in 2019-2020.
The 2019-2020 budget included $28,700 for planning, intended to pay the county planner to assist boards and committees. Those funds were not used.
The selectmen and budget committee did not make any formal recommendations on the position, but will discuss it further at a future meeting.
Town Manager John O’Connell presented the following budgets: administration, $193,625, up 12.5%; airport, $95,815, up 5.6%; animal control, $14,927, down 14%; assessing, $7,026, up 3.7%; boards and committees, $4,460, up 56.9%; celebrations, $12,000, no change; cemeteries, $123,150, up 14%; clerk, $93,198, up 3.1%; code enforcement, $39,805, up 10.7%; Wiscasset Public Library, $57,250, no change; other community organizations, $5,615, no change; contingency, $30,000, up 50%; contractual services, $210,700, up 6.7%; estimated county taxes, $637,476, up 2%; and debt service, $243,234, no change.
Budget committee members questioned the increase of 56.9% for boards and committees, from $2,843 to $4,460. O’Connell attributed the increase to a proposed raise for the recording secretary, from $17 per hour to $19 per hour.
A budget committee member questioned the increase of 10.7% for code enforcement. The code enforcement officer currently works 20 hours a week; the 2020-2021 budget will allow for additional hours if needed, according to O’Connell.
The next budget meeting will take place Thursday, Feb. 13, with the ambulance service, police department, public works, transfer station, and wastewater treatment on the agenda.
There will be no budget meeting Monday, Feb. 17, due to the Presidents Day holiday. Future budget meetings will be Thursday, Feb. 20; Monday, Feb. 24; and Thursday, Feb. 27.