Windham council moves $19 million budget to town meeting

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WINDHAM — Town voters will weigh in on a more than $19 million Windham municipal budget at the June 16 town meeting.

The Town Council approved its amended version of the budget 4-2 during its May 22 meeting.

Chairwoman Donna Chapman, Vice Chairman Robert Muir and Councilors Jarrod Maxfield and Dennis Welch voted in favor of the budget. Councilors Rebecca Cummings and Clayton Haskell were opposed. Councilor Tim Nangle was absent Tuesday night.

Town Manager Tony Plante said the council-approved budget totals more than $19.1 million – an increase of more than $140,000 from his initial manager’s proposal for the coming fiscal year.

Plante said the budget heading to town meeting calls for more than a 5.6 percent  increase in spending from the current year. That, however, would amount to only a 1.8 percent increase on the municipal portion of taxes because of various sources of revenue.

“I think the council did a good job getting through the budget,” Plante said, adding that the town was “a little crunched for time at the end” and that there may need to be some adjustments to the budget process in order to make it “work better.”

Plante said the council’s addition to the budget included adding a full-time compliance and safety officer, moving up the start dates for two new public works drivers to October 2018, explicity funding $50,000 for the elderly tax reimbursement program, and $40,000 in TIF expendatures for town-owned Christmas lights.

“I’m trying to make holidays great again, yes I am,” quipped Chapman in response to a question from Cummings.

Council reductions from the budget included the elmination of the operations manager postion within the Public Works Department, which Plante said was created this year and would trim about $74,000 from the budget.

“This is all about a budget, unfortunatly, it’s not personal,” Welch said about the postion cut.

Haskell was concerned about the overall budget increase and whether older residents on fixed incomes can “afford to stay in their homes.” He asked why the budget was going up compared to last year.

Plante said some of the increase is tied to the first interest payment on the town’s future shared vehicle maintenance facility with RSU 14 and to new town positions created last year. He also noted that the municipal budget accounts for about 35 percent of the local tax burden.

“Talk to the School Board about the other 60 percent,” said Maxfield.

Nangle, who was absent Tuesday night, expressed concerns about the budget in a written statement and argued that the increased staffing within the budget is “a significant expense and does little to invest in our town’s future.”

Nangle said that the town should be making long-term investments in its future, citing a proposed sewer project and community center as examples.

“We need to stop kicking the can down the road and hoping that someone else will come in and fund our projects, or saying next year fund this,” he said.

The annual town meeting will be held Saturday, June 16, at the Windham Town Hall gym. The moderator will be elected at 9:45 a.m. and the meeting will start at 10 a.m., according to the town clerk’s office.

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

 

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