Edgecomb considering property revaluation for 2024

Fri, 04/09/2021 - 7:45am

    Edgecomb has not had a property revaluation in 17 years, and it doesn’t look there will be one anytime soon. Selectmen discussed the timetable April 6, but their tax assessor isn’t available for three years. Instead, selectmen unanimously agreed to meet with Tax Assessor John O’Donnell of John E. O’Donnell & Associates, Inc. to begin estimating the project’s size and scope in preparation for a 2024 revaluation. “We’re receiving an increasing number of inquiries of taxpayers questioning their bills,” Selectman Mike Smith said. “Its been 17 years, so we’re way beyond time.”

    In other action, Selectman Dawn Murray reported about her legal inquiry into whether or not volunteer firemen were municipal employees. Murray spoke with a Drummond Woodsum representative who counseled her that, under the federal Fair Labor Act standards, volunteer firefighters. “didn’t fall under the standard of municipal employees.” This determination means Edgecomb doesn’t have to follow a new Maine law mandating paid time off for their volunteer fire department.

    The law, enacted in 2019, mandates Maine workers accrue one hour of paid leave for every hour worked. A worker can accrue up to 40 hours paid time off per year after 120 days of employment based on the law which took effect on Jan. 1, 2021. 

    During Edgecomb’s budget deliberations, town officials wondered how the new law impacted their municipal volunteer fire department. “We are exempted from minimum wage and paid time off requirements,” Murray said. “This is not considered an employee-employer relationship. A volunteer is just that, a volunteer. I was told their compensation should be a nominal standard to cover their expenses.”

    In the proposed Fiscal Year 22 budget, selectmen recommended a $15 per hour wage for firefighters. Selectmen also promised to continue discussing future compensation for volunteer firefighters, beginning in July. Murray recommended researching what other municipalities pay their volunteer firefighters as part of their  conversation with Edgecomb’s volunteer department. 

    Selectmen also approved a special board meeting for 6 p.m. Monday, April 12 to approve two new warrant articles for the May Referendum Town Meeting. Article Three seeks authorization to set a 7% interest rate on delinquent taxes, but Town Clerk Claudia Coffin informed town officials state law sets a 6% maximum rate. So Article 60 will repeal No. 3, and seek authorization for a 6% rate. Two additional articles regard proposed changes made by the school committee. On March 25, selectmen held a joint meeting with school officials on an unanticipated higher surplus for Fiscal Year 21. 

    Selectmen met with School Committee Vice-Chairman Heather Sinclair and Alternative Organizational Structure 98 Superintendent Dr. Keith Laser on March 25 about an unexpected $460,000 budget surplus. School Committee Chairman Tom Abello notified selectmen March 22 a couple hours after the board approved a 58-article town referendum warrant. In the email, Abello wrote: “Since the conversation with the budget committee and selectboard, we've been taking a harder look at projected revenue, expenses, tuition revenue, COVID-related savings, and federal money. It’s become clear that there is more revenue than we realized.”

    Ultimately, selectmen agreed to two more ballot questions. The questions won’t be part of the warrant. A special ballot will be created for the additional questions and will be hand counted. Selectmen agreed to the following provisions regarding the projected $460,000 surplus: $70,000 remains in an undesignated account, $250,000 would be used to reduce taxes, and a $140,000 contingency fund would be used only with selectmen’s approval. 

    Selectmen will meet at 6 p.m.via Zoom conference to approve the three additional warrant articles. At 6:15 p.m., the school committee and department heads will join selectmen in a municipal budget public hearing.

    The next regularly scheduled selectmen’s meeting is Tuesday, April 22 via Zoom conference.