September 23, 2020

Van Buren sets special meeting Council to address expected shortfalls in as many as 10 municipal accounts

VAN BUREN – A second special town meeting since the annual town meeting in June will be held next week.

It’s all about money and what the town can spend. The majority of the Van Buren Town Council believes the town needs another $29,430 to operate the town this fiscal year that will end on June 30, 2007.

The Town Council and Town Manager Larry Cote believe there will be shortfalls in as many as 10 accounts where cuts were made during a special town meeting on Sept. 19. At that meeting in September, residents cut nearly $200,000 from the budget approved last June.

The new special town meeting was approved by a 4-1 vote of the Town Council.

At 7 p.m. Wednesday, residents will meet in the auditorium at Van Buren District Secondary School to act on one article that deals with reported shortfalls in the town’s accounts paying for audits, office supplies, advertising, postage, town manager’s salary, expense account and travel costs, a secretary for the Town Council, town clerk’s expenses and travel, election expenses, heating and police retention reserve costs.

“If approved, the money to cover the funds will come from [somewhere] other than property taxes,” Cote said Thursday. “Our tax bills for this year have been sent out, and we cannot send a second tax bill.

“We have several [choices],” he said. “Residents will tell us where to take the money, if the needed funds are approved.”

Available funds include the town’s surplus funds, from which they have been making drastic transfers the last two years, the overlay in the 2006-2007 budget (money raised above the actual town’s needs), and a check the town has received from the Maine Municipal Association.

The MMA check of $10,257 is a dividend check the town has received. The town received the money from MMA, which covers the town’s insurance needs, because of its good history of usage.

While the town has that money, it has no specific authority to use it. Residents would have to give the Town Council that authority.

The cuts made at the special town meeting in September trimmed taxes down by 3 mills from the budget approved in June.

The property tax commitment, including schools and the town’s share of the Aroostook County budget, is $2,262,445.25.

All the cuts were made in the municipal area of the budget. The school budget was approved separately by residents of the three-town SAD 24. The Aroostook County budget is set by commissioners and the Aroostook County budget committee.

Residents agreed to use $50,000 of surplus money from prior years to bring the commitment down further than the $200,000 cut at the Sept. 19 special town meeting.

The $50,000 from surplus lowered the tax rate by 1 mill. Cuts made at the special town meeting made up the other 3.25 mill rate cut.

Before the special town meeting, the municipal budget was some $205,000 higher than a state mandated property tax levy limit.

On Monday night, the Van Buren Town Council will be holding its biweekly meeting. That will be held in the council chambers room at the municipal building.

Earlier this week, Cote put out a special plea to supporters of the Town Council to show up at the meeting. He and the majority of the Town Council believe a silent majority of voters support the Town Council but have not shown it.

The town has been in turmoil since last June’s election when two new members were elected to the Town Council. Many issues are decided on 3-2 votes.

“I hope the letter brings out people,” Cote said Thursday. “The Town Council needs to know how residents feel.

“I hope people fill the room,” he said. “What we are hearing is that people are frustrated with individuals causing the havoc that has been going on.”

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