December 7, 2013

Farmington selectmen to consider cutting charities from town budget, review town manager performance on Tuesday

Selectman Joshua Bell asked selectmen to remove requests from charities from the annual Town Meeting warrant in preparation for a difficult upcoming fiscal year.

By Kaitlin Schroeder kschroeder@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

FARMINGTON — Selectmen will consider excluding nonprofit organization’s funding requests from annual Town Meeting warrants at Tuesday’s Board of Selectmen meeting.

Requests to charities accounted for $7,000, or 0.2 percent, of the $4.9 million town budget approved; but the requests traditionally prompt split votes from selectmen and Budget Committee members, along with lengthy discussion from voters.

Farmington town officials mirror neighboring communities in their debate about compelling residents to donate to charities through taxes, regardless of whether the nonprofits provide necessary economic and social services, and whether the groups need the town’s support.

Selectman Joshua Bell, who proposed excluding the charities during the last selectmen’s meeting, said the town will have a tight budget this year with the loss in municipal revenue sharing funds from the state.

Nonprofit groups granted requests by the town last year include the American Red Cross and Safe Voices.

Jane Morrison, executive director of Safe Voices, said her advocacy group works to educate the community about domestic violence and provides safety and legal assistance to victims in Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford counties.

The three-county nonprofit has a Farmington office that works with police to help victims find safe shelter and help them get protection from abuse orders. She said they also run a 24-hour hotline.

“The calls run the gamut from ‘I’m worried about my daughter’ to ‘I’m on a street corner and I need some help,’” she said.

Morrison said their educational services include going to schools and talking about healthy relationships and “hands are not for hitting,” a educational program that seeks alternatives to violence.

“I know this has been a concern of Farmington for a number of years. I certainly understand they want to be careful with taxpayer money, but ... if we were not there and did not serve residents of Farmington, then it would not be as safe of a place as it is,” she said.

She said reports of domestic violence have continued to increase in Maine, and in Franklin County reports of domestic violence increased in 2012 by 20 percent from the previous year.

“If they didn’t fund us, it doesn’t make the need go away,” she said.

Last year, voters approved a $5,000 grant for Safe Voices, despite the decision by selectmen and Budget Committee members not to recommend allocating funding to the agency.

Along with the charities listed on the town warrant, Farmington residents support some of the larger social and economic service groups through county taxes. Franklin County commissioners have a rule preventing “double dipping” so nonprofits are allowed to request funds at either the county or the municipal level, but not both. Commissioners approved $274,313 in requests from nonprofits this year.

Selectmen also will be going into a closed-door session for their annual performance review of Town Manager Richard Davis. Davis has been’s Farmington town manager for 12 years and before that was the Wilton town manager for 13 years.

Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252 kschroeder@centralmaine.com
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