Monson approves all 46 articles at town meeting

By Bill Pearson
Staff Writer

    MONSON — Prior to starting Monday’s town meeting, Selectman Shawn Nelson explained to the 28 residents assembled in the Monson Community Center about the economic challenges facing small towns in Maine based on Governor Paul LePage’s plans for balancing future state budgets. Nelson gave a cautionary tale to prepare the residents about even more difficult economic times on the horizon.

ne-monson-dc-color-po-12Observer photo/Bill Pearson 

    GRIM FORECAST — Selectman Shawn Nelson gave the residents a grim economic forecast on Monday night about Gov. Paul LePage’s plans to fill the state’s projected budget shortfalls. Nelson indicated that the proposals to eliminate or reduce municipal revenue sharing, Homestead Tax Exemption and curtailing other tax rebate programs would mean a large tax shift to local property owners.

    Nelson indicated that the governor’s plan to eliminate municipal revenue sharing would result in Monson losing $36,000 per year in state subsidies. Another LePage proposal to eliminate the Homestead Tax Exemption would result in local property owners paying an additional $140 per year. Other proposals to curtail tax rebate programs like the circuit breaker for renters and a proposal for the state to keep all of the excise tax revenues would result in a tax shift absorbed by the local property tax payers.
    “This is not a good economic climate for anybody,” Nelson said. “I’m asking anybody who has ideas on how the town can cope with these types of reductions in revenues to contact us. More than happy to hear your ideas. This is already a difficult budget year and we don’t even know what the school budget is going to be like.”
    When the 28 residents began deliberating on the 2013 municipal budget they passed all 46 articles. Voters approved a $734,987 municipal budget which is $1,803 more than this year’s. Residents spent 70 minutes in approving the budget and electing municipal leaders.
    Residents had few questions about the articles until they reached article 39 which asked the town to appropriate $4,500 for planning and community development. Nelson indicated the funds were to hire a consultant to work with the planning board to draft a land use ordinance. The town currently has a moratorium against prohibiting developments like the East-West Highway. The moratorium pans privately paved highways, high power transmission lines and oil pipeline developments.
    “The consultant is needed to assist the planning board in designing the ordinance,” Nelson said. “The ordinance will not stop the East-West Highway, but it will work as a guideline to help protect the town.”
    The next article also resulted in a resident questioning the amount requested for the recreation committee. When Moderator Doug Nelson brought article 40 up for discussion to raise $4,500 for the town’s recreation department, it resulted in a resident’s question.
    “Is that enough,” the female resident asked.
    Town officials assured the voter that $4,500 would meet the department’s needs. The town is currently looking to fill all the recreation committee’s membership. The town is looking for four members to serve on the committee.
    The town meeting began with the municipal elections. There were no contested elections. Shawn Nelson was re-elected to a three-year term as a selectman. Bette Stevens was elected to a five-year term on the Monson Utility District board. Ken Adams and Tom Adkins were elected to serve on the planning board for a five-year term. Paul Suomi and Brita Cronkite were nominated to serve as associate planning board members. Suomi was elected to a five-year term and Cronkite will fill an unexpired term. Sue Chase and Kim Witham were elected to three-year terms on the board of appeals.
    Doug Nelson told the audience that he was a substitute moderator. He explained that Daryl Witmer was unable to attend Monday’s meeting and he expected him to return to the position at the next year’s meeting.

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