Sunday, May 19, 2013
By Paul Koenig
WHITEFIELD -- The proposed budget voters will see at Saturday's Town Meeting probably won't raise many eyebrows, given that selectmen are proposing a 2 percent decrease from last year's spending plan.
Town Meeting: 2 p.m. Saturday, Whitefield Elementary School
Total proposed budget: $833,399
Issues of note: proposed budget down 2 percent
Registered voters: 1,647
Voters at 2012 Town Meeting: 63
Current property tax rate: $14.75 per $1,000 of assessed value
Elections: 8 a.m.-noon Saturday, Whitefield Elementary School
Contested races: Frank Ober, Anthony Marple and Samuel Bartlett Jr. for two open selectmen's seats
"Obviously, in today's day and age, it's important to try to keep it down," Town Clerk Aaron Miller said.
Residents will be voting earlier in the day for candidates to fill two seats on the Board of Selectmen.
Selectman Frank Ober, Anthony Marple and Samuel Bartlett Jr. will face off in a secret-ballot vote from 8 a.m. to noon at Whitefield Elementary School. Selectman Tom Colpitt decided to not run again.
Voters will decide on the remaining articles at the annual Town Meeting, set to start at 2 p.m., also at the school.
The board is proposing a budget of $833,399, and the Budget Committee's proposal is slightly higher, at $842,539.
The difference stems from the board's decision to not make any recommendations on articles raising money for social service organizations.
Board Chairman Steve McCormick called this year's town warrant a standard budget. "As far as hot topics, I don't really see any," he said.
McCormick said the selectmen, like those in most other Maine towns, tried reducing the effect of declining state funding on taxpayers.
"It's really pretty much what we can do," he said. "Our budget is pretty thin as it is."
Miller, also the administrative assistant, registrar, treasurer and tax collector, said he isn't expecting a lot of debate on funding requests.
He said the one issue that could draw some pushback from residents is the doubling of the fire chief's and rescue chief's pay, from $2,600 to $5,200, and from $1,300 to $2,600, respectively.
Overall, the Fire Department's budget is proposed to decrease around 2 percent, from the $93,850 approved last year to $92,000.
The item with the largest monetary increase from last year's budget is the road maintenance budget, rising from $150,000 to $165,00.
Bartlett said he decided to run for selectman after some residents encouraged him to do so. He owns Bartlett's Auto Sales in Whitefield and has served on the Planning Board.
He said the selectmen have done a good job, but he would like to see them follow up more with people who go before them with issues.
Bartlett also said he wants to come up with a plan for older residents who can't afford their property taxes.
Marple said he's been interested in serving on the board for a while but didn't have the time until now.
He recently retired as chief financial officer for Mercy Hospital in Portland, after serving as the director of Maine's Medicaid program for four years and working for MaineGeneral Health before that.
Marple said it's important to make the services offered by town viable without increasing the tax burden. He also said he would support working to implement Whitefield's comprehensive plan. Residents approved it in 2005, but the state did not.
Ober didn't respond to phone calls for comment.
Voters also will be able to vote for write-in candidates for the three Planning Board seats.
"I just really hope people turn out," McCormick said. "The more people that show up to town meetings, the better. This is their one shot to have their say on the budget during the year."
Paul Koenig -- 621-5663