New Sweden residents approve school and town budgets

1 month ago

NEW SWEDEN, Maine – New Sweden residents voted in favor of budgets for both town and school operations Thursday.

Twelve registered voters gathered at the town office, with John Hedman elected as moderator. 

Most school budget articles passed without discussion. New Sweden is part of School Union 122, which also includes Woodland and Westmanland. The town’s school-related expenses go toward operating Woodland Consolidated School.

This year’s school budget will total $1,072,891 compared with $1,046,033 in fiscal year 2023-2024. Union 122 will receive $929,581 in state funds toward public education. Residents voted to allocate $278,040 from local taxes for the school union.

School leaders did not request an additional local share, which totaled $43,688 from the town’s surplus account last year.

Voters also approved $626,495 for regular instruction, down from $651,108 last year; $190,630 for special education, up from $137,100; $69,987 for system administration, up from $66,135; and $185,978 for transportation and buses, down from $191,690.

For the municipal budget, voters approved $49,000 for utilities and upkeep of town facilities, up from $45,700 last year; $45,000 for general government, up from $40,000; $130,000 for the highway department; down from $147,000; $291,701 for salaries and personnel costs, up from $241,567; and $6,585 for municipal officer stipends, no change. 

NEW SWEDEN, Maine — June 13, 2024 — New Sweden Town Clerk Teresa Lamothe (left) and Select Board members Sven Bondeson (middle) and Don Cote listen to public comments during the annual town meeting. (Melissa Lizotte | Aroostook Republican)

This year, the town’s contract with the county for snow removal near a portion of the Caribou-Connor Township town line has decreased the highway department budget. New Sweden will use payments from the county toward highway employee salaries, said Select Board member Sven Bondeson.

The town will allocate funds toward several reserve accounts, including $15,000 in a revaluation account; up from $5,000 last year; $15,000 for highway reserve and $4,000 to purchase fireproof safes for the town office, with the latter two allocations the same as last year.

New Sweden will pay $72,125 for fire and ambulance services from Caribou, no change from last year. The county tax bill has increased from $66,000 to $112,537 due to the county’s switch from a calendar year to fiscal year budget, Bondeson said.

Town residents agreed to pay $26,000 for Tri-Community Landfill fees, $1,200 for membership to Northern Maine Development Commission and $2,500 for heat and lights at the New Sweden museum. All costs stayed the same as last year.

The town will contribute $3,700 for area social services, including $400 to Aroostook County Action Program, $900 to Aroostook Agency on Aging, $1,350 to Central Aroostook Humane Society, $200 to the Central Aroostook Soil and Water Conservation District and $850 to the town cemetery. That is a decrease from last year’s $7,700 in total contributions.

Most discussions centered on the town’s new 6-month moratorium on commercial solar panel developments and its choice to join the Maine Public Employees Retirement System. Both measures passed unanimously.

After residents inquired, Town Clerk Teresa Lamothe said that only one company reached out a year and a half ago to ask about setting up solar panels. They have not contacted the town recently.

New Sweden currently does not have an ordinance regulating solar panel gardens. The Select Board will look at ordinances from Maine towns of similar size and discuss how they might regulate that type of development, Bondeson said.

The Maine retirement system, known as MainePERS, will be available to town employees who work more than 20 hours per week. Temporary and seasonal employees and elected officials are not eligible. The town will contribute 4.6 percent to each employee’s plan, Lamothe said.

With the town and school budgets, Lamothe said that the total mill rate could increase by at least one mill. Last year’s mill rate was 18.5 per $1,000 of property value.

New Sweden also announced its local election results Thursday. 

Robert Stedt won a three-year term on the Select Board with 67 votes. Write-in candidates Stephen Brody and Stanley Anderson each received one vote.

Melanie Lagasse was reelected to New Sweden’s school committee for a three-year term. Write-in candidates Dennis Anderson, Stephen Brody and Stanley Anderson all received one vote.