January 23, 2013

Report finds LePage's state budget would cost Oakland $335K

By Matt Hongoltz-Hetling mhhetling@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

OAKLAND -- Gov. Paul LePage's proposed budget would cost the town about $335,000 in reduced revenue, according to a town report.

The topic was one of several items discussed Wednesday night during a Town Council meeting.

Town Manager Peter Nielsen told the council that the proposed cuts would affect the town's total $4 million budget significantly.

"That's about 8 percent of our budget walking right out the door," Nielsen said.

The $335,000 is roughly equal to the town's annual paving expenses, Nielsen said, and would be hard to manage at a time when the council is trying to present a budget that would result in no property tax increase.

Nielsen asked for direction on whether he should take LePage's proposed cuts into account as he begins to plan the town's budget.

He said that with the outcome of LePage's proposal uncertain, it would be premature to plan a municipal budget assuming the worst.

"I'd hate to begin by planning for reductions when we don't know the scope of them," he said.

He said it is unlikely that the budget will pass as LePage proposed it.

Councilman Dana Wrigley said the state budget might not be resolved by the time of annual Town Meeting in May.

The board decided the town should prepare a budget that includes full funding from the state but make no commitments on expenditures that would rely on that revenue.

"That's going to be a problem with the paving," Wrigley said. "We may have to put it back until next spring."

After the budget discussion, the council told Nielsen to move forward on identifying equipment to allow for the recording and posting of meetings on the town website. Nielsen said maintaining the quality of a recent experiment would cost $305 in equipment.

Councilman Don Borman said the program, which was begun in response to a citizen petition for more public access to meetings, could be expanded and improved with additional cameras and microphones over time.

The council also approved a letter of support for a regional approach to combat invasive milfoil in the Belgrade Lakes, which include East Pond, Great Pond, Long Pond, McGrath Pond, Messalonskee Lake, North Pond and Salmon Lake.

The action was in response to a letter from the Belgrade Board of Selectmen asking for active support and funding to combat the problem.

Nielsen said he had discussed the scope of the problem with local environmentalists.

"They don't believe it can be eradicated, but it can be driven into a corner and kept under control," he said.

By a unanimous vote, the council also re-elected Mike Perkins as board chairman.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling -- 861-9287

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