FAIRFIELD — Residents at Monday’s annual Town Meeting will consider slightly different budgets from the Board of Selectmen and Budget Committee, both of which would result in a less than one percent increase in spending.
The differences between the two budgets come largely from different recommendations on recycling and large trash pick-up. They will be considered at the meeting at 7 p.m. Monday at the Fairfield Community Center.
“The budget committee and council knew that would prompt a conversation at town meeting, so they wanted to give people that choice,” said Fairfield Town Manager Michelle Flewelling.
Included in the council’s budget of $2,260,718 to be raised from taxation are recommendations the town spend $20,000 for a spring clean-up day and $14,400
The budget committee is recommending $2,226,818 be raised by taxation. Its budget does not include funding for either spring clean-up or recycling.
Last year, residents chose to fund both items, Flewelling said. The spring clean-up typically takes place in May and is a week where residents can put up to 10 large items on the roadside for trash collection.
The cost covers the disposal of the items, which last year was $19,000, and does not include the cost of re-directing public works employees from other work in order to take care of the large trash pick-up and disposal, Flewelling said.
The event has also been a topic of debate in the past because people from other communities have abused the spring clean-up by dumping their trash in Fairfield, she said.
“It’s a pretty well-known practice so we do have quite a few folks who bring materials to town,” she said. “It used to be a much larger problem before. Now it’s limited to 10 items, a limit we put in place last year.”
The budget put forth by the council would result in a 0.38 percent increase in spending while the budget committee’s proposal would be 1.15 percent less than the current budget.
No matter which budget is passed, Flewelling said she is confident the municipal budget will not raise taxes. However, she said the impact of county and school budgets and state revenue sharing remains to be seen.
Other significant changes in the budgets proposed for 2019-2020 include an approximate increase of $170,000 in the Fairfield Police Department’s budget, bringing it up to $1.2 million.
About $100,000 of that increase, however, will be reimbursed to the town by the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency, which is funding the addition of a new MDEA agent at the department.
Flewelling said the remaining costs come from two retirements in the department and the need to budget for changes in health insurance that could come with the hiring of new employees.
Jeanne Kempers, a police dispatcher who has worked at the Fairfield Police Department since 1983, is retiring and will be replaced by a patrol officer who will split time between patrol and dispatch.
“Instead of just hiring a dispatcher, someone who works in the office, we’re actually going to put in a patrol officer who can work dispatch and also help cover when they get really busy,” Flewelling said, adding that most of the town’s dispatch goes through Somerset County anyway. “That puts an officer in the building who can do things for folks when they stop by.”
Other items to be considered Monday include $885,187 for Fairfield’s share of the budget of the Fairfield and Benton Fire-Rescue Department; $1.13 million for public works; $270,000 for paving; and $710,838 for administration.
Flewelling said her biggest message to residents Monday night will be that the town has been fortunate to have a number of long-term employees but will be losing five people to retirement before the end of August.
“It does have a huge impact on us financially with the unknowns,” she said. “It’s not just us. It’s being experienced all over the state. Not a lot of young folks are looking to come into municipal government and it is difficult.”
Rachel Ohm — 612-2368