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Madawaska townspeople pass $6.8 million budget

MADAWASKA, Maine — The townspeople of Madawaska turned out to the annual town meeting Tuesday where they approved a budget that was recommended by the Board of Selectmen and the Finance Committee.

The final budget sits at just over $6.8 million, which increased by almost $250,000 from last year’s budget of $6,555,146. The final budget has added revenue from various town departments such as the ambulance department, and the net budget is a decrease of almost $246,000 from last year.

The Finance Committee and the Board of Selectmen had approved all department budgets except the library’s at their Sept. 3 meeting. 

At their Sept. 15 meeting, Selectmen retracted a motion to strike $10,000 from the library budget in order to not cut into the librarian’s salary. 

The proposed library expenditure was among all 42 articles in the town budget, which approximately 95 voters passed at Tuesday’s town meeting. 

Two articles encountered some resistance and several voters sought to amend them, without success. 

Andrew Dube, who described himself as “a lifelong citizen of Madawaska,” proposed a substantial decrease to Article 14: To see what sum of money if any The Town will vote to raise and appropriate for the General Government Department. The town recommended $667,087.

Dube told his fellow voters to consider that Madawaska is an “aging community,” and that many residents were struggling to afford home heating, food and medications. 

“I look at this budget line item here and I get sticker shock; it seems remarkably excessive,” Dube said. “I believe that it would be in the best interest of the people for us to be bold, make a statement today here as a people that we will no longer tolerate this. I suggest a 50 percent cut to the administrative budget totaling over $333,000.”

At the request of one audience member, Town Manager Gary Picard provided a breakdown of finances sought for the article: $67,525 to fund the governing body, $495,138 to fund town administration, $23,091 to fund general assistance, $76,970 to fund municipal building operations and $14, 262 to fund elections. 

Board of Selectmen Chairperson Doug Cyr urged voters to deny Dube’s amendment request.

“Folks of Madawaska, this is nothing but a vindictive personal attack on our administration,” Cyr said. “These people work tirelessly day in and day out representing you folks. If you are to follow this amendment, you are technically shutting the town down completely — not just that department, but every department.”

Cyr pointed out that the new budget allows for increases to some of the department reserve accounts and would result in nearly a half mill reduction in property taxes. 

“Other changes that are coming — you’re seeing a bridge come into town very shortly,” Cyr said. “You’re going to see the Kmart parking lot revamped. We’re gonna do a lot of work there — all good for this town. And yet we have people here that are ready to tear it down and I’m just sick and tired of having to deal with this; it’s putting us on the back seat every time that we try to move forward. I see no reason in trying to carry this amendment forward.”

Cyr’s comments were met with applause from the voters, who declined to pass the amendment. 

Another Madawaska voter requested an amendment to Article 24, which in part sought to set the interest rate of unpaid sewer bills at 8 percent. The voter suggested the article instead reflect a 5 percent interest fee on unpaid sewer bills. 

This amendment also failed to pass muster with voters.

 

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