Bar Harbor residentsBarbara and Ezra Sassaman get settled to participate in the drive-in Bar Harbor Town Meeting at Mount Desert Island High School Tuesday. “It was a novel approach. I don’t know as there’s too many towns that have done it this way," said Town Manager Cornell Knight. ISLANDER PHOTOS BY LIZ GRAVES

Budgets approved at drive-in Town Meeting

BAR HARBOR — Voting was conducted by means of index cards held out open car windows, but the residents gathered for a drive-in Town Meeting at Mount Desert Island High School Tuesday did give in to the urge for a celebratory honking of horns right at the end of the meeting. 

“I think we ought to give ourselves and all those who participated a show of our appreciation,” said Bill Ferm, the moderator, and the 90 gathered voters honked their assent.

Bill Ferm is sworn is as moderator at Tuesday’s drive-in Bar Harbor Town Meeting at Mount Desert Island High School. The proceedings were broadcast on the radio, both on an FM signal by Wallace Events and on AM and online by WDEA.

The open floor meeting was the first part of the Town Meeting and included approval of the town and school budgets and election of the Warrant Committee. Next up is the written ballot elections, which include elections for Town Council, Superintending School Committee and high school trustees as well as votes on zoning changes. That election is Tuesday, July 14, or earlier by absentee voting.

Most years, written ballots are required on some questions at the open Town Meeting, but due to the pandemic, that requirement was waived. That change was a big factor in making this one of the quickest Town Meetings in recent memory here: the meeting was called to order at 7 p.m. and adjourned at 7:47. 

Bar Harbor residents vote by holding index cards out the windows of their cars at Tuesday’s drive-in Town Meeting at Mount Desert Island High School.

The budget includes a 1.4 percent drop in the municipal portion of the property tax assessment. Because school and county assessments are still going up, the mill rate is set to rise 0.8 percent, to 11.95. For a home assessed at $286,700, the town’s median, that means a $29 increase in taxes over the current year. 

The only budget change brought from the floor was the addition of a $5,000 contribution to Island Housing Trust. 

The separate parking and cruise ship funds do not directly impact taxes, but those revenues are expected to be down $1.14 million. Appropriations from those funds are down $371,827 and $641,353, respectively.

Up front, from left, are Town Manager Cornell Knight, Town Council Vice Chairman Matthew Hochman and Chairman Jeff Dobbs.

The $6.7 million budget for Conners-Emerson school was approved. The total reflects a $199,942 increase to the town appropriation, or an increase of $5.87 per $100,000 of property valuation (not the mill rate). The school’s state subsidy, which for the current year was $545,467, is expected to increase hardly at all. The annual tuition rate for the current year was $11,688 per student, which is more than the $9,280 state average but less than the other, smaller elementary schools in the district. 

The Warrant Committee for the coming year was elected: Julie Berberian, Steve Boucher, Robert Chaplin, Sherri Dyer, Michael Good, Emily Henry, Donna Karlson, John Kelly, Meagan Kelly, Amanda Kendall, James Kitler, Seth Libby, Allison Sasner, Christine Smith, Kathleen St. Germain, Lawrence Sweet and Mary Jane Whitney. 

“Everyone’s been very patient” with all the disruptions to routine due to the pandemic this year, Town Manager Cornell Knight said. 

“It was a novel approachI don’t know as there’s too many towns that have done it this way.”


Liz Graves

Liz Graves

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander reporter and editor Liz Graves grew up in California and came to Maine as a schooner sailor.

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