September 23, 2020

Fairfield residents OK budget> $3.4 million plan means 4% tax hike; department requests pass

FAIRFIELD — Voters approved a $3.4 million budget in about 90 minutes Monday night.

During a relatively short annual town meeting, residents breezed through most of the 71 warrant articles with little discussion and no debate.

The 60 voters in the community center gym endorsed all departmental requests, approving a budget that carries a 4 percent tax increase.

As a result, the tax rate most likely will rise to $21.40 per $1,000 of property valuation, an 80-cent increase. That will mean about $65 more on an $80,000 home.

The figure does not include Fairfield’s share of the SAD 49 budget, which voters will set in June.

Afterward, Town Council Chairman Bill Hagerty said he was pleased.

“I feel as though everything we asked for in there we need,” he said. “We’re watching the budget awful close.”

Most of the more than $200,000 spending increase will be spread among cost-of-living raises, higher insurance costs and public works projects.

Voters approved all big-ticket items — including a $142,000 request for a loader — without comment.

But they had plenty to say about a string of smaller requests from community groups and social service agencies.

In drafting the budget, town councilors faced higher requests from many groups. In most cases, they recommended flat funding.

Among the few exceptions was the Police Athletic League, which had requested — and ultimately received — a $5,000 increase.

Dick McGee, who heads the program, said the organization constantly struggles to fund programs for children on a reasonable budget.

It runs a host of athletic programs and a summer program, filling what otherwise might be a void. Fairfield’s $35,000 contribution is just 20 percent of the group’s overall budget.

“We provide the entire recreation program for this area,” McGee said. “I think you’re getting a pretty good deal.”

The Waterville Area Boys and Girls Club had more than doubled its request.

Ken Walsh, the group’s chief executive, told voters the increase would help fund programs and services at the organization’s new $9 million center in Waterville.

If voters were to approve the funds, he said, Fairfield children ages 6 to 18 would receive free memberships.

“I thought this would be a great opportunity,” Walsh said.

Voters gave the agency $15,000, an $8,000 increase from the current year.

Later, Hospice Waterville asked the town for $1,000 — five times its previous request. When one voter moved to approve just $200, keeping funding flat, another voter spoke out.

Dr. Jeffrey Lovitz said hospice, which serves people with terminal illnesses, had helped many of his patients face death with dignity. It would be “shortsighted,” he said, to slight the agency.

Voters agreed and approved the $1,000.

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