By Charlotte Boynton
Wiscasset voters take care of town business at the Wiscasset Community Center, Saturday, May 31. (Charlotte Boynton photo)
At open town meeting May 31, Wiscasset voters approved withdrawing $1.25 million in reserve funds to lower taxes, approved hiring a school resource officer, and raised the appropriation for the library by almost 15 percent.
The 181 voters attending the open town meeting, in most cases, supported the recommendations of the selectmen, including approving the board-recommended $77,384 planning budget.
The budget committee had recommended a reduction in hours from 40 hours per week to 20 hours per week, and a total planning budget of $50,884.
The position and the current planner, Misty Parker, received much support from the voters present at the meeting.
The voters did go along with the budget committee’s recommendation to keep the town’s administrative assistant position at 30 hours per week, instead of the 35 hours per week recommended by the selectmen – a $4,000 difference.
Voters also reduced the vehicle maintenance account by $13,000, but increased the library’s appropriation from $60,000 to $68,950.
The voters went along with the selectmen’s recommendation for the code enforcement officer’s budget of $45,300 for 20 hours per week. The budget committee had recommended a reduction in to 15 hours per week.
A motion by Shawn Rafter to amend the appropriation for Lincoln County Television from the $6,000 recommended by the selectmen to $9,664 failed.
Rafter said the town receives over $44,000 in franchise fees, and the town should appropriate what Lincoln County Television requests. The motion to amend failed with 93 opposed and 51 in favor, while the motion to appropriate $6,000 passed.
There was much discussion on the article to take $1.25 million from the town’s reserve account to reduce the town’s anticipated tax increase from 27 percent to 9.88 percent.
Resident Richard Grondin said, “It is like committing suicide if we don’t vote to do this.”
The vote to withdraw was 123 in favor and 26 opposed.
It took three votes to resolve the decision of the school resource officer. The vote on the police budget was the first time the town had used remote electronic keypads for voting.
The motion to accept the selectmen’s recommendation of $376,374, which included the hiring of a school resource officer, came out as a tie, 83-83.
“I’m glad we had the keypads,” said moderator Susan Blagden. “That motion fails.”
A motion to accept the budget committee’s recommendation of $336,776 failed with 98 opposed and 69 in favor, and a third motion, again for the selectmen’s recommendation, carried with 91 in favor and 76 opposed.
The selectmen took criticism on their decision to hold an open town meeting instead of a secret ballot referendum vote.
In brief interviews with voters after the meeting, several said they enjoyed the open town meeting.
“I wished that more people had attended. It is true there are more voters in a referendum vote,” said Selectman Jeff Slack. “But, there are more informed voters at an open town meeting.”