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Originally published in The Weekly Packet, February 21, 2013
Brooksville Town Meeting
Brooksville municipal budget aims to shrink tax burden

by Rich Hewitt

The municipal warrant for the annual town meeting next month contains some good financial news for town residents.

The proposed budget for 2013 is more than $23,000 less than last year’s budget and the amount to be raised from taxes will drop by more than $30,000.

The warrant for town meeting, which will begin at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 5, at the elementary school includes a town budget, not including the school budget, of $929,797, a decrease of $23,441 or about 2.4 percent from last year’s budget. A large portion of that decrease comes from a drop in the county tax, which decreased by $8,362 to $172,668 this year.

Likewise, the amount that will have to be raised from taxes will drop by $33,032. A key factor in that decrease, according to Selectman John Gray, is the winter roads account.

“We’re not raising anywhere near what we raised the previous year,” Gray said.

After any easy winter last year, the winter road account had a balance of more than $67,000. Although the selectmen have budgeted the same total amount for winter road work—$230,000—they plan to use some of that balance, which will allow them to reduce the amount needed from taxes. Last year, the town raised the full $230,000 from taxes, according to Gray. This year just $150,000 will come from taxes, with the balance coming from surplus, $60,000, and from automobile excise tax, $20,000.

The budget also contains a $10,000 item for roof repairs at the Brooksville Public Service Building. That amount is in addition to the $15,000 allocated in 2012.

The budget also includes $20,000 for the library renovation project. The town allocated $20,000 last year, but those funds were not spent in 2012, so the money went into surplus. Gray said the funds would be transferred from surplus back to the renovation project account.

The warrant includes $97,000 for the transfer station in Blue Hill. That’s up $1,677, but Gray indicated that the figure was an estimate.

With the purchase of a new fire truck last year, the town depleted its fire truck reserve account. This year, the warrant calls for $10,000 to that account as the town begins saving for the next new truck purchase. The budget also includes the second annual $38,000 payment on the new truck.

The town’s legal account will drop to $2,000, a decrease of $6,000. Administrative Assistant Gayle Clifford explained that the town tries to keep about $10,000 in that account each year, so the amount needed each year will vary. This year, they just need the $2,000 to bring the account up to that level, she said.

The athletic field needs some additional work this year, so the budget includes $4,500 this year, an increase of $1,000.

There will be several new articles facing voters at town meeting this year. Voters will be asked to create two continuing accounts, the Walker Pond Landing Account and the Public Access Account.

Voters had previously established a shore access account which was used for the purchase of the town’s share of land in Sedgwick and the cost to establish the town landing. With the landing now opened and jointly owned by the two towns, the new continuing account will provide the town’s share of the costs of managing the Sedgwick-Brooksville Landing.

According to Gray, the two boards of selectmen from the towns established a $30,000 budget for the operation of the landing this year. Brooksville’s share will be $15,000. In a separate article, voters will be asked to transfer the $15,000 from the balance that remains in the Shore Access Account to the new Walker Pond account.

The second new continuing account will be used to create access and improvements to other properties owned by the town. The town currently owns a small piece of property on Young’s Point Road that was given to the town by Sumner Lymburner. Gray said that a group of residents approached the town seeking to create walking paths on that property. Voters will be asked in a separate article to transfer $1,000 from the Shore Access Account to the Public Access Account.

Voters also will be asked to accept the gift of a parcel of property on Cape Rosier Road from the estate of Kip Leach. Before his death, Leach, a longtime selectman, had operated a storage facility on the property called Empty Pockets Storage. The property would initially be used by the town for storage, Gray said. But, he added, it is centrally located on the cape and could be a good site for an auxiliary fire station to serve that area if it was needed in the future.

There are several articles recommended by Maine Municipal Association that authorize current practices in the town. The first would authorize the selectmen to spend up to 25 percent of the budget between the start of the year and the annual town meeting. The second would give the selectmen the final authority on closing roads to winter maintenance. The third recommended article would authorize the tax collector to accept prepayment of taxes that had not yet been committed. The town, however, would not pay interest on those prepayments, Gray said.