New Sweden approves budget, elects town officials during annual meeting

1 year ago

NEW SWEDEN, Maine — New Sweden residents approved the town’s upcoming fiscal year expenses Thursday and learned the results of the annual election.

Ten registered voters gathered at the town office to approve municipal and school expenses, which take effect July 1. New Sweden resident John Hedman served as moderator for the evening.

During the almost 90-minute meeting, voters passed all warrant articles as proposed. Most warrants passed with little or no discussion.

Most conversation centered on the town’s portion of Union 122’s school budget, which totals $1,046,033, a $10,943 increase from last year’s $1,035,090. The budget covers operating expenses for Woodland Consolidated School, which most New Sweden children attend.

Resident and budget committee member Carl Anderson asked why the budget for transportation and buses decreased from $363,150 last year to $191,690 this year.

Union 122 Superintendent Karla Michaud explained that $210,000 was used last year to purchase a new school bus. The district must now allocate $30,000 every year for the bus until it is fully paid for, Michaud said.

Michaud also expects the salary for one of the district’s new bus drivers to decrease. One driver is retiring, and had more pay based on his experience. Although the drivers’ salaries are up 10 percent, the district hopes to replace the retiring driver and needs to base the new driver’s salary on experience, Michaud said.

So far no one has applied for the vacant bus driver position. Currently, the drivers’ salaries are within the $20,000s and $30,000s, Michaud said.

Other expenses listed under transportation and buses include $9,000 for vehicle repairs, $6,000 for vehicle insurance, $9,000 for supplies and parts and $25,000 for diesel fuel, largely staying the same as last year.

Union 122 expects to receive $840,401 in state funding for the 2023-2024 fiscal year. Voters approved a local allocation of $277,057 and additional local funds of $43,688 from the town’s surplus account, as required to fund the school budget.
Residents agreed to pay $651,108 for regular instruction, $137,100 for special education and $66,135 for system administration.

For the municipal budget, voters approved $45,700 for utilities and upkeep of town facilities, $40,000 for general government, $147,000 for the highway department, $21,000 for vehicle maintenance, $241,567 for salaries and personnel costs, $6,585 for municipal office stipends and $2,500 for General Assistance.

The highway and vehicle maintenance budgets will be offset by local excise taxes that the town collects, explained the Select Board.

The town will pay $80,000 of its excise tax collected and $26,000 to the county to fund extra highway department expenses for plowing a portion of road near the Caribou-Connor Township line in winter. New Sweden is in a three-year contract with the county for that road maintenance due to other highway departments being short-staffed.

This year, New Sweden will pay $66,000 in county taxes, $72,125 for fire and ambulance coverage from Caribou Fire & Ambulance and $26,000 in Tri-Community Landfill fees.

Residents also approved $15,000 for the highway reserve fund, $5,000 for the town revaluation reserve fund, $4,000 for the purchase of fireproof filing cabinets for the town office, $1,200 for Northern Maine Development Commission membership and $2,500 for heat and lights at the New Sweden Historical Museum.

The town will allocate $7,700 total in contributions to the Aroostook Agency on Aging, Aroostook County Action Program, Central Aroostook Humane Society, Central Aroostook Soil & Water Conservation District and the town cemetery.

Voters authorized the Select Board to transfer $48,831 in surplus funds toward a plow truck lease payment, $7,000 in surplus funds to purchase a screener for the highway department and $40,000 in surplus funds to reduce the mill rate.

Based on the current budget, the mill rate could increase from $19 to $20 per $1,000 of property value this year. But the final figure won’t be determined until at least August when real estate and property taxes are committed, said Town Clerk Teresa Lamothe.

Don Cote was reelected to a three-year term on the town’s Select Board during Tuesday’s election with 30 votes. David White received 10 votes. Write-in candidate Phyllis Orthaus received two votes.

White won a write-in election to serve on New Sweden’s school committee with six votes. Cassie Germain and Steve Anderson each got two votes. Wendy Hewitt, Portia Whitmore, Steve Burden, Don Cote, Shirley Cote and Bob Doar each received one vote.