The joint budget and select board workshop on Feb. 10 discussed the need for a planner/economic developer. Weather permitting, wastewater, public works and the transfer station, EMS, and the police department will be reviewed Feb. 13. And on Feb. 20, parks and recreation will be reviewed.
In preliminary budget figures, administration is seeing a jump, since Town Manager John O'Connell is leaving and the budget reflects the potential costs for a new town manager, he said. The total proposed administration budget is $193,625, up $21,569.
The airport budget also increased due to work on hangar doors. The total proposed budget is $95,815, up $5,046, or 5.6%. Animal Control is preliminarily dropping to $14,927, a $2,440 decrease.
Assessing is so far at $7,026, up $248. Boards and Committees increased $1,617, to $4,460, mostly due to an increase in the recording secretary’s pay. Celebrations is even with last year's budget, at $12,000. The cemeteries budget, which is not taxpayer-funded, increased to $123,150, up $15,137.
The clerk's office is also going up, mostly due to an extra election in 2020. The budget is $93,198, up $2,817. Code enforcement is up. O'Connell said he included an extra two hours per week for Bruce Mullins. The budget is $39,805, up $3,849. The funding to Wiscasset Public Library will again be $57,250. Support for other community organizations, likewise, has not changed, at $5,615. Contingency increased to $30,000, up $10,000. Contractual services are up $13,200 to $210,700, Debt service has not increased. The total is $243,234.
Elections is increasing again due to the extra election this year and the costs of an additional machine to tabulate ranked choice ballots. The budget is $21,535, up $2,350. Finance increased to $255,807, up $37,127. This was led by an increase in worker's compensation costs, and costs for the finance software TRIO. General Assistance dropped 16.6%, to $21,496. O'Connell said this was due to several service agencies taking on some of the need, for heating and food support.
Municipal insurance rose, to $212,094, up $10,951. O'Connell said this is not something the town can control. If worker's compensation is used, the cost of the pool goes up.
A spirited discussion ensued about planning costs. Last year, the town agreed to hire the county planner part time to help with grants and the committees. However, due to personnel changes at the county planning office, the funds were never used. Chair Judy Colby said the town needs a person in the job, to do economic development and planning.
“We don't know how many opportunities we've missed because we don't have a person in that role,” she said. “Sometime very soon, we are going to have to either raise taxes, which I don't want to do, or cut services, which the people have made very clear they don't want to do, unless we get more economic development in Wiscasset.”
Members of the budget committee said virtually every department that came before them emphasized the need to have planning help. The joint committee agreed to look at the issue carefully.
Public utilities is decreasing to $275,514, down $1,961. The cost may drop further after the town decides whether or not to change out lamps on streetlights to LEDs, which O'Connell said is in the works. The selectmen's budget is $27,362, Senior Center costs are going up, due to new minimum wage requirements, to $14,466, a difference of $69, and Shellfish Conservation costs dropped to $6,000 from $6,003, because worker's compensation was moved to a municipal budget. Waterfront and Harbors fell $66 to $54,843.