Wednesday, December 18, 2013
HALLOWELL — Albeit late, the city adopted a budget tonight after a debate on fiscal philosophy, leading to a new donation to a social-service organization.
The $2.2 million budget, passed nearly a month-and-a-half after Hallowell's fiscal year ended on June 30, is about 8 percent lower than last year's, but it is expected to result in an 8 percent property tax increase.
That's largely because Hallowell's share of the budget for Regional School Unit 2, also comprised of Farmingdale, Richmond and Monmouth, is about $380,000 higher than last year. Reductions in state aid to cities and towns is $70,000 lower than last year.
Tonight's meeting of the Hallowell City Council was residents' last chance to weigh in on the budget, due to low participation at previous budget meetings.
At a meeting in July only one person spoke on the budget: Deborah Fahy, executive director of the Harlow Gallery, a Water Street art gallery. Her lobbying for more money was successful — city councilors upped taxpayers' contribution from $500 to $2,000.
Today, one social-service group came to ask for money. One resident told the council to stop giving taxpayer money to groups that can raise it themselves.
Diane Woodworth, development director at Spectrum Generations, a group that provides services to elderly and disabled adults, asked the city to contribute to the organization. The group's website says it provides Meals on Wheels to those 60 and older at seven community centers, including the Cohen Community Center on Hallowell's Town Farm Road.
Woodworth said the group — which Hallowell didn't fund in the last budget year — provided nearly 1,500 meals to more than 200 Hallowell residents in 2012, a 66 percent increase from 2011.
"Many of them are coming to us for their needs and services and we are there for them," Woodworth said.
Four of five councilors present and voting chose to give Spectrum Generations $1,000, a move that City Manager Michael Starn said wouldn't increase property taxes for city residents. Woodworth said that money would provide 200 meals.
Councilor Edmund Cervone, who proposed the funding, said he added it to the budget because Woodworth provided information councilors "weren't privy to" in earlier budget talks.
But before the vote, Councilor Lisa Harvey-McPherson said while organizations like Spectrum Generations provide a valuable service to residents, giving them city money isn't appropriate.
"The social-service programs, I don't see them as a municipal responsibility," she said.
Only Harvey-McPherson dissented when it went to a vote.
Also before the vote, Michelle Truman of West Street said private donors, not the public, should support groups like the Harlow Gallery and Spectrum Generations.
"Some things cannot just be doled out," she said.
Michael Shepherd — 370-7652