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News Feature

Originally published in The Weekly Packet, February 20, 2014
Lengthy warrant facing Sedgwick citizens at town meeting March 8

by Bette Britt

Beginning at 9 a.m. on Saturday, March 8, voters who gather in the historic town house will hear results of elections held the previous day and tackle a town meeting warrant with 80 articles. They will bring town reports laden with reports, facts and figures and learn, during discussion, that both the school and municipal budgets being proposed are less than those approved a year ago.

At a meeting between selectmen and Union 76 Superintendent Mark Jenkins on Thursday, January 30, the bottom line for educating 134 K-12 students stood at $1,987,673, a 2.99 percent in-crease over the current budget, but the total local share to be raised will be $94,352 less due to increased subsidies. Municipalities don’t get that kind of break, but selectmen and budget committee members have gone over the budget proposed for 2014-15 time after time and, while any figure given is tentative depending on the whims of town meeting voters, it also will cost taxpayers somewhat less to run the Town of Sedgwick during the next fiscal year.

When sought for comment about the municipal budget, First Selectman Neil Davis responded that the $784,945 proposed for 2014-15 is considerably lower than the $814,173 approved last year. Funding for the proposed budget will be raised from taxation ($747,445) and taken from surplus ($37,000), said Davis.

Acknowledgment that being a town official is complicated and time-consuming, a major change is being proposed in compensation for selectmen, with voters being asked whether each of the three should receive $8,000, with chairman to receive an additional $1,000; $8,000 was approved for first selectman at 2013 town meeting, with second and third selectmen getting $4,000. The code enforcement officer would be given a raise, from $4,000 to $8,000; on a motion by Selectman Nelson Grindal earlier this month, the assistant to selectmen would be given a $1,001 raise to $13,001.

There are two new warrant articles in the town report, both being changes to ordinances already on the books; WA 60 relates to subdivisions and WA 61 to telecommunication towers, the latter specifies notification to the code enforcement officer when there’s a “potential co-location applicant.” The budget committee, which in past years has generally indicated approval, will make no recommendation of support for outside monetary requests; the number of such requests has increased to 17 this year that range from $350 to $14,866 for services as local as Sargentville and Sedgwick libraries to the American Red Cross.

Concentrating on holding the line, selectmen and budget committee members eked out an occasional cut, chief among them the legal reserve account, down from last year’s $7,000 to $2,000. Most warrant articles remained the same as approved in 2013, although some increased in small amounts such as routine maintenance of the town house, which increased by $100 to $750, and others such as snow removal, which jumped by $8,820 to $185,220. Other articles relative to highways remained steady, including repair and upkeep of roads and bridges ($40,000), salt/sand reserve account ($100), winter roads ($30,000) and tarring ($50,000).

Administration of the town went up to $167,000, an increase of $34,000 in the proposed budget due to inclusion of items from other accounts; the fire equipment account increased by $5,000 to $20,000 as a new truck is going to be needed soon. The fire protection budget also increased by $1,500 to $45,000 (not the $55,000 as reported in the January 30 Weekly Packet).

The proposed 2014-15 school budget is covered by warrant articles 41 through 58, including figures for regular instruction, career and technical education, special education, student/staff support, system administration for central office services and school administration for principal’s office, transportation and facilities maintenance. Details of funding for education are outlined in the town report.