CRANBERRY ISLES — Voters at town meeting here last Saturday authorized the town to borrow up to $350,000 for a new fire truck for Great Cranberry Island. The vote was 41-10.
One of the deciding factors, according to Town Clerk Denise McCormick, was the town’s Insurance Service Office (ISO) fire rating, which insurance companies use to set home insurance rates.
“I think people were pretty impressed with the fact that our ISO number went down, and they have seen a huge reduction in their house insurance in the past year,” she said. “So, it was an easy sell for the fire department.”
By a much narrower margin, 19-16, voters authorized borrowing up to $75,000 to construct a breakwater in Islesford harbor “to provide a wider birth for barging vessels … and improve overall boating safety.”
By a margin of 37-5, residents voted to disband the Municipal Advisory Committee (MAC). That was a recommendation of the MAC itself, which also recommended that the board of selectmen “explore other ways to involve community members in the decision-making process.”
Voters approved a 2019-2020 budget of $2.72 million, which is 15.2 percent higher that the current year’s budget. That is due in large part to the cost of the fire truck. The effect of the budget increase on the tax rate won’t be known until property assessments are completed. But the overall assessment is expected to be higher, so the tax hike could be modest.
The budget for next year includes $776,752 for K-12 education. That is an increase from this year of 11.4 percent, which is due in part to a projected increase in special education costs from $66,790 to $134,328.
Cranberry Isles School Committee member Amy Palmer was re-elected at town meeting, outpolling two other nominees. Long-time Selectman Richard Beal was re-elected without opposition.
The annual salary for the chairman of the board of selectmen is $8,000. The other two selectmen each make $7,500. In comparison, each of the three Swan’s Island selectmen is paid $5,000. The five Mount Desert selectmen each get $3,000. Four of the five Southwest Harbor selectmen receive $2,000; the chairman gets $2,500.
In Tremont, the board chairman is paid $50 per meeting for up to 26 meetings a year, for a maximum annual payment of $1,300. Each of the other four selectmen gets $45 per meeting for a maximum of $1,170.
A few voters at the Cranberry Isles town meeting questioned whether their selectmen are paid too much. Phil Whitney said now that the selectmen have a full-time administrative assistant, as well as other town employees, there isn’t nearly as much demand on their time as there used to be.
“There are a lot of volunteers, too, who provide support for the town, so that the selectmen don’t have as much work as they had a few years ago,” he said. “I just think we are paying more than we should for the position. I think it should be lower, $3,000 for the chairman and $2,500 for the others.”
But others at town meeting said the selectmen still spend a lot of time on town business; in addition to preparing for and attending meetings, they deal with many questions, requests and complaints from citizens. Someone described it as “a thankless job.”
It also was pointed out that the salary for selectmen was raised substantially a few years ago because it had become difficult to find anyone who was willing to run. The higher pay was seen as an incentive for those who might want to serve but didn’t think they could afford the time away from their full-time occupations.
A majority of residents at town meeting voted to retain the current level of compensation for selectmen.