Standish voters to consider 10 percent increase

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STANDISH — When Standish voters head to town meeting on June 16, they will weigh in on a proposed $9.7 million budget for the coming fiscal year that represents an increase of just over 10 percent from the current year’s expenses.

The increase in municipal spending would raise the local tax rate by 44 cents from $13.25 per $1,000 of real estate assessment to $13.69, according to the town’s budget request.

That projected increase, which does not include the impact from SAD 6 school costs, would result in the municipal portion of the tax bill for a house in Standish valued at $200,000 to rise from $2,650 in the current year to $2,738.   

At a March 1 Town Council meeting, Standish Town Manager Kris Tucker – in his first budget process as manager since starting with the town in December 2017 – outlined his initial proposed budget including a cost of living increase for town employees aimed at making Standish a more competitive employer, new staff positions and spending on capital projects.

Tucker’s initial budget proposal was a more than 11 percent increase from current expenses, but the budget committee recommended that his proposal not pass and suggested several reductions.

Some of the biggest cuts suggested by the budget committee and accepted in part by the council included a reduction of about $26,000 from a planning contract related to form-based coding and more than $25,000 from capital projects.

The council vote 5-2 on April 3 to receive and reaffirm the budget after accepting some, but not all, of the suggested changes from the budget committee.

The two councilors who voted against the budget were Chairwoman Kimberly Pomerleau and Michael Delcourt.

At the meeting, budget committee member and former Town Councilor Phil Pomerleau, who is the council chairwoman’s husband, took issue with the way the council took up each of the recommendations one by one rather than first voting to approve or deny the entire budget.

“You can’t amend our budget. You have to accept it or not accept it as we presented it to you,” he said, adding that the council could reject the committee’s recommendations and then make its own recommendations.

“They were ready for you, Phil. The stuff is already right here,” Kimberly Pomerleau said during the April 3 meeting. “We’ve already made the changes.” 

Budget committee member Wells Lyons said he supported the process used in the April 3 meeting and requiring an up or down vote on all of the committee’s recommendations would be “beyond the limited authority granted to the budget committee.”

Councilor Steven Nesbitt said  that the trend of municipal impact on the tax rate has not seen much net fluctuation over the last four years, and he thinks it’s time for the town to make some investments.

“We’ve tried to keep everything very steady, but we’ve held on too long. We need to move forward with some of these new projects,” Nesbitt said. “We have turnover and we have a new town manager who has a lot of economic development expertise. We want to put that to use. We need to start putting some more money into those things so we can grow as a town.”

Matt Junker can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or mjunker@keepmecurrent.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MattJunker.

The final budget going before Standish voters on June 16 will represent an increase in expenditures of slightly more than 10 percent.

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