Mil rate for 2013 set at $20.35

By Stuart Hedstrom 
Staff Writer

    MILO — After discussion on how much the increase should be and the possible impact on both the town and residents, the Board of Selectmen set the mil rate for 2013 (the fiscal year for Milo matches the calendar year) at $20.35 for every $1,000 in assessed property during a meeting on July 2. The mil rate of $20.35 represents an increase of $1.75 from the previous amount of $18.60.

    Town Manager David Maynard began the discussion on the 2013 mil rate by saying the budget committee devised “what was approximately a $1 mil increase for the budget” when developing Milo’s spending plan ($1 mil is equal to approximately $104,000 in the town budget). “At town meeting voters approved the basic budget, they also turned down something that comes into play at this time,” he said, as an article was voted down that would have OKed the use of $100,000 from the fund balance to reduce the town’s tax commitment.
    Saying the mil rate is prepared for the selectmen by himself, the treasurer, tax collector and assessor, Maynard said the starting point for the mil rate was last year’s figure of $18.60. He explained accounting for the $1 mil increase and the amount of $150,000 taken out of fund balance at the 2012 annual town meeting a mil rate for 2013 of $21.1 was being brought by the board. “That’s what it ends up being if you do it based strictly on town meeting,” he said.
    The overlay, which helps cover tax abatements and uncollected taxes that legally can no longer be acquired, has been near $40,000 the last half decade, Maynard said. “At $21.1 that’s a pretty big tax increase, you probably need at least $30,000 in overlay,” he said. Town Treasurer Robin Larson and Tax Clerk Betty Gormley said they both agreed to the $21.1 mil rate, but mentioned an overlay closer to $20,000 could work.
    “I can’t agree with it,” Selectman Lee McMannus said about the $21.1 figure. He suggested in the future that the budget committee hold several public hearings to let citizens know what their options could be, such as what services would be available at a certain mil rate and what may be offered at a lower rate.    
    “$21.1 this year allows you the possibility of reducing it next year,” Maynard said. Anticipating some possible concerns from the board, Maynard said he may be able to make adjustments in the budget to bring the mil rate down to $20.6.
    Selectman Bob Ade suggested a mil rate of $20.35, which he said would be between the $19.6 mil rate recommended by the budget committee and the $21.1 brought to the board. This rate was passed by a vote of 3-1, with McMannus voting “no” and Lois Wagner not present.
    Maynard said a mil rate of $20.35 equals an approximate $76,000 reduction in the town budget. Per his suggestion, the board voted to declare a financial emergency and directed him to prepare a financial cutback plan with other town employees to meet the funding allowed for under the reduced tax rate.
    In other business, Maynard said earlier in the day he was in Augusta to meet with Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) officials on the downtown Safe Streets project. Maynard said bids for the work were opened and reviewed the previous Thursday with $383,000 believed to be available for the base portion of the larger project, but during the meeting he learned a sum of $305,000 was available.
    After some discussion it was discovered approximately $68,000 from Community Development Block Grant funds was expended but not formally part of the project. Maynard said upon review these monies were added to help cover the base project and the MDOT commissioner was willing to award the funds for the base project.
    Among the items not covered in the base project along West Main Street are repairs to the western side of the road sidewalks and the installation of granite curbing and light fixtures and trees.
    “The board has to make a decision tonight, do you want to do the base project or not?,” Maynard said. “In my opinion, if we do the first part the second part will come. It could come next year or perhaps in two years.”
    “As a board I think we have an obligation to facilitate for those businesses the best we can,” McMannus said about how improvements such as fixing the intersections would help the nearby establishments.
    Select Chair Wilma Stanchfield and Ade also said improving the intersections would make the stretch of road much safer. “If we can do the base project we can push the sidewalk as a safety issue,” Ade said about getting the remainder of the Safe Streets project funded.
    “I make a motion that we go forward with the base bid,” McMannus said, as the motion would enable Maynard to sign the necessary documents to start the project in the near future.
    Selectman Jerry Brown voted “no” on the motion, and his fellow board members passed another motion to enable Brown to speak with the Governor’s office and other state offices about getting the entire project funded.
    Maynard reported that another potential project could be looming for the downtown Heritage Building, currently the home of Elaine’s Cafe and Bakery on one side, which could result in two businesses being housed in the  unoccupied portion of the facility. He said he could not yet reveal specifics other than “one business is a new business that potentially everyone in the town could have a use for and the other is an expansion of a business.”
    He said if the Heritage Building developments come to fruition then the structure would be full and the larger project would be completed. Maynard said if progress continues, more information on the new tenants will be revealed at a future public hearing.
    A pair of concerns were brought to the selectmen during the public comment session of the meeting, and the first asked about the change of addresses for portions of Derby. These changes were made to accommodate E-9-1-1, under Homeland Security guidelines, and some properties were too close together to allow for new numbers within existing addresses.
    The second concern stemmed from loud noises, such as firecrackers, radios and other sound sources. One idea mentioned was a specific ordinance to cover such noises, which could be part of a series of ordinances town officials look at later in the year. Any proposed ordinances would feature public hearings before a final decision is made via a town meeting vote.

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