Fort Fairfield adopts $4M budget

3 weeks ago

The Fort Fairfield Town Council voted 3-2 to adopt a $4,026,065 budget for the 2024-2025 fiscal year.

The largest increases were in fire and emergency medical services, which rose $336,671 from last year, and in public works, up $216,239 from 2023. Because the town has worked to pay down its debts in the past year and received an increase of nearly $1.2 million in state revenue sharing, residents will not see taxes raised, Town Manager Tim Goff said. 

“We will be able to make some significant headway on improving our financial position, while absorbing significant increases from the school and county, while also making much-needed investments in paving and municipal infrastructure without raising taxes,” he said after the meeting.

Goff said the town is also working to attract investment and development, including seeking grant and matching-fund opportunities. 

The revenue sharing boost is a unique situation and could change next year, bringing some budget challenges, but the town has some flexibility to adjust the budget should costs of everything keep going up, he said.

Just before the budget vote, held at the council’s June 12 meeting, Councilor James Ouellette proposed an amendment to reinstate a 1 mill property tax rate reduction.

“Taking this 1 mill property tax reduction that was built into the original budget away from the taxpayers without any attempt to trim even $1 from the spending in this budget is in my opinion unfair and unethical,” Ouellette said.   

Councilor Kevin Pelletier felt restoring the tax reduction would be fair to residents. 

Councilor Pat Canavan said she had heard from a lot of townspeople who said they were happy with the budget and were not expecting a mill rate reduction.

Any mill rate reduction will cause state revenue sharing to fluctuate, Goff said. 

Councilors voted 3-1 against the motion, with Pelletier abstaining. 

The group next voted 3-2 to pass the budget, which also includes the following: administration, $647,764, up $30,043 from the 2023-24 fiscal year; library, $91,137, up $30,287; police, $613,350, up $54,250; parks and recreation, $196,664, up $20,614; and Maine Potato Blossom Festival, $30,000, unchanged.

In addition to the state revenue sharing, income projections include $98,012 from an emergency medical services grant, $100,000 in local roads assistance, $325,000 in ambulance revenue, and $721,100 in town income including interest, registrations, excise tax and other fees.