MILO – Even though there has not been a mill rate increase for municipal government in years, there is a misconception that the town is spending money like a drunken sailor, a selectman said Thursday.
The comment by Tony Hamlin, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, came before town officials embraced a $1.75 million proposed spending plan.
The proposed municipal expenditures are up by $85,550, but that increase is expected to be reduced when the budget committee and selectmen hold a final budget meeting Monday.
To support his point that town officials are frugal, Hamlin noted that although calls to the police department had increased 400 percent over the year, the town was budgeting less for the department than in 2006.
“It [the budget] is essentially down to bare bones but Milo has been there for a number of years,” Town Manager Jane Jones said outside the meeting. Any increase in revenues is absorbed by increases in fixed costs such as electricity and fuel, she said.
The proposed budget does include a 3 percent merit wage for employees.
Of the $85,500 increase, $25,000 was budgeted for town hall improvements such as an exhaust system to remove fumes caused when firetrucks housed in the basement are moved, and the first phase of a new heating system.
The multifloor town hall has only one zone for heating purposes, and phase one would increase the zones to two, according to Jones. She said the current structure is “extremely inefficient.”
Harkening back to Hamlin’s comment about the increase in police calls, Jones said it does not necessarily reflect more crime but simply a more active stance taken by the new police chief and his department.
For example, the chief has a zero tolerance policy for illegal drugs which is reflected in the statistics. The department also has stepped up efforts on motor vehicle violations, she noted.
While it will not have an effect on the proposed budget, Jones said, the town will relinquish the administration of the Penquis Solid Waste District, of which Milo is a member, on March 31. The district will assume the responsibility.
One issue that is pressing in the community is the need for a full revaluation of town properties because the town is assessing at 67 percent of the market value, according to officials. That percentage is an estimate since the town has not received the latest state certified ratio. Selectmen plan to discuss the matter further on Monday.
The plan, according to Jones, is to implement a revaluation by April 1, 2009. About $73,000 has been set aside in a reserve account to conduct the project.
Residents will act on the proposed budget at the annual town meeting slated for 7 p.m. Monday, March 12, in the Town Hall.