SOUTHWEST HARBOR — About 70 voters approved a $3.24 million municipal budget and $3.57 million for the Pemetic Elementary School at the annual town meeting Monday.
The $3.24 million for the 2017-2018 municipal budget reflects an increase of 1.5 percent. Significant increases are in the lines for administration, police, dispatch and a capital improvement plan. Offsetting these increases are drops in the highway department budget and in funds to be transferred from reserve accounts.
The $310,647 for administration is $57,800 more than budgeted for the current fiscal year. Resident Michael Young questioned the increase. Tom Benson, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, explained that $50,000 in surplus funds were used last year to keep budget increases to a minimum, which the board decided not to do this year.
The approved budget also includes $485,800 for the police department, $271,260 for emergency dispatching, $280,173 for the highway department, $105,900 for harbor operations and $34,400 to be divided between 12 community service agencies.
Several residents questioned a warrant article to transfer $15,000 from an unemployment reserve account and put $10,000 of it into a legal and accounting reserve account and $5,000 into a salt and sand reserve account.
“Is this a legal article?” asked Mark Campbell. Campbell pointed out the wording of the article was misleading; it made it seem like the $15,000 was being eliminated from the budget. After some discussion, Campbell moved to amend the article, eliminating the $15,000 deficit in the recommendations of selectmen and the Warrant Committee and substituting language where the town officials recommended only passage of the article.
Resident Susie Homer asked if the additional money for the legal and accounting account was needed for legal actions relating to a former town office employee. Selectman Lydia Goetze assured her that was not the case.
“This budget was made before that situation arose,” she said.
The amended article carried with little opposition. The same issue came up again in a subsequent article to move $3,000 from a tax abatement reserve account to a wage and benefit reserve account. That, too, carried after being amended.
Voters approved $55,000 for the Southwest Harbor Public Library and $59,640 for Harbor House Youth Center and recreation programs. Both carried easily in voice votes, with two nays being heard during the Harbor House vote.
The municipal budget also included $321,300 for a capital improvement plan.
The $3.57 million budget for the Pemetic Elementary School is $102,978 higher than for this school year. Voters gave their approval to the 16 warrant articles required for the school budget with no discussion, although a few nays could be heard during the articles requiring a voice vote. In the written ballot required for the article to raise and appropriate $1.36 million in additional local funds above the state minimum, the article carried 58-9. The article to approve the total school budget carried 61-2 in a hand count.