HOULTON, Maine – The town of Houlton’s proposed $14.8 million 2024 budget increased $2.5 million over last year and includes significant increases for both the police department and the airport.
Starting in December, the Houlton Board of Budget Review will hear from the town’s department heads regarding line items and justification for expenditures as the detailed review begins prior to a public hearing in January.
Last year, former Town Manager Marion Anderson said that preparing the FY 23 budget was challenging given the rise in the cost of goods and utilities and increases in state mandates. And this year’s process may face even more hurdles without a permanent town manager at the helm and increased state mandates that make the proposed expenditures more than projected revenues.
Anderson retired from her position at the end of August, although she remained on to support the town until Nov. 1 when Houlton Police Chief Tim DeLuca was appointed interim town manager by the town council.
DeLuca said that most of the FY 2024 increases relate to union contractual increases for salaries as well as increases in the cost of goods and utilities and state mandates.
In preparing next year’s proposed budget, DeLuca asked the department heads to prepare the budget along with the town treasurer and he is overseeing the process. As police chief he will present his portion of the budget to the town council for their review and approval, he said.
Last year’s $12,340,976 budget included reductions in the police department’s $1.4 million budget request, despite objections by DeLuca who said the police department needed those funds for staffing. At the time Anderson said that the police department had been understaffed for many years and that’s why she decided to pull those funds.
This year’s $1.5 million police department proposed budget includes increases for salaries and staffing, including a $290,680 increase in regular police officer salaries. Additional increases are proposed for overtime hours and retention bonuses.
School, county and state mandates are $309,512 higher than last year and the town has no choice in meeting those obligations.
Other significant proposed changes include $404,887 for snow and ice removal as compared to an actual FY23 total of $223,758.
The proposed in-depth budget review begins at 6 p.m. Dec. 7 in the town council chambers. The review is public. All budget review meetings will also be on Zoom with links posted on the town site, according to the town clerk. .
On Dec. 7, administration, protection, fire, police and ambulance will present their budgets to the review board. On Dec. 12, community development, cemeteries, town buildings, public works, parks and recreation, the Civic Center, park maintenance and the airport budgets will be presented and on Dec. 14, the planning board, employee benefits, capital expenditures, debt service, and outside agencies.
There will be a public hearing on the recommended budget on Jan.2.
This story was updated to add information provided by Tim DeLuca.