2018-04-11 / Front Page

Kingfield selectmen recommend slashing funding requests

By Dee Menear Irregular Staff Writer

KINGFIELD — Selectmen finalized their program and agency budget recommendations at the Monday, April 2 board meeting. Requests for funding from community organizations and outside agencies reflect an increase of $12,000 more than was approved by voters in program funding for the 2017-18 fiscal year budget. Selectmen made quick work of recommendations and opted to recommend $41,000 in program funding.

Kingfield Sno-Wanderers increased its request from $3,000 to $5,000. The request received selectmen’s recommendation. Chairman Wade Brown noted the snowmobile trails bring a lot of visitors and, thus, is important to the town’s economic development.

Requests to fund the New Year’s Eve firework celebrations ($5,000), Kingfield Trail Builders ($4,000) and Maine’s High Peaks ($5,000) did not receive selectmen recommendations. Selectmen recommended cutting $1,000 from the $5,000 Kingfield Festival Days request.

These programs are eligible to be funded from the TIF and, with the exception of Kingfield Trail Builders, have been funded by voters in the past.

The United Methodist Economic Ministry requested $5,000, double what was approved by voters at the June 2017 meeting. Selectmen recommended $2,500 in funding. The American Red Cross request for $500 was cut to $400 before being recommended by selectmen.

Selectmen recommend not funding several programs, including: Community Concepts, Franklin County Chamber of Commerce, LifeFlight of Maine, SeniorsPlus, Androscoggin Home Care, and Sexual Assault and Prevention.

A $250 request from Kingfield Fire Department Auxiliary was not recommended. “They are looking to get money to finish getting what they didn’t have, but they went out and spent $500 on a gym membership,” remarked Chairman Wade Browne. Last year, voters gave the newly-reformed auxiliary $1,000 to get off the ground.

The proposed budget was turned over to the budget committee, which began its review of the proposed budget Monday, April 9. The budget committee will make recommendations but program funding is ultimately left in the hands of the voters, who will approve or deny funding at the Saturday, June 2 town meeting.

Selectmen tabled appointing members of the newly formed Kingfield Trail Builders Committee because the majority of the recommended appointees were not residents of Kingfield, a stipulation the majority of selectmen felt was important.

Selectman Brian Hatfield felt having a Kingfield majority was important. “The mission is clearly identified. As long as whoever is on the committee carries out the mission, that is all that matters,” Hatfield said.

Polly MacMichael of Kingfield agreed and pointed out the majority of potential members were energetic about the project and had already completed hundreds of hours of volunteer work.

Prior to the board making the decision to table the issue, Administrative Assistant Leanna Targett pointed out, “I don’t think the townspeople or budget committee will support this without the majority being from Kingfield.”

Julie Swain of Kingfield made a plea to selectmen regarding the MSAD #58 budget, currently being worked on by school directors. “As you know the budget is still in draft and there have been some pretty deep cuts. I’ve been in contact with the department of education and the main reason for the cuts is we have fewer students,” she said.

Swain reported the current cuts propose one less teacher in both Kingfield and Strong schools, among other things. “I understand they have to make the budget but I have concerns as a parent, a taxpayer and a resident. We are getting so much less every year for the money we are putting in. From my perspective, we are working budget to budget. I’d like to respectfully submit that our town, our taxpayers deserve more transparency about a long term solution,” she stated.

Swain said fewer students means less money. “We are in a vicious cycle. We have a great school here, we just have to be assured our kids will have a teacher,” Swain noted. Swain stated she approached directors during a previous MSAD #58 School Board meeting. She also noted the school budget would be presented to selectmen in the near future.

“It’s a daunting task to think we can fix it overnight. I have no idea how to fix it, other than standing up and voicing your opinion. A lot of times a group of angry mothers get a lot more done than a group of selectmen. If you get some people banded together, so your voice is louder, you can do more good than we could,” remarked Selectman Walter Kilbreth.

“The best thing is to keep bringing it up. Contact our school board members so they can keep bringing it up. They are there to be our voice,” remarked Browne.

The department of education uses ED-279 to make calculations for education subsidies. The most recent annual report shows a decrease of 32 students between October 2016 and October 2017. According to MSAD #58 Superintendent Susan Pratt, 460 of the district’s 668 current students are residents of Avon, Kingfield, Phillips or Strong. There are 33 students attending district schools under Superintendent Agreements; 22 of those students are from New Portland. Carrabassett Valley, Coplin Plantation, Eustis and Highland Plantation pay tuition for resident students to attend district schools. Remaining students are residents of unorganized territories.

Selectman candidates for the upcoming election are Ronk Beedy and Morgan Dunham. Hatfield is not seeking reelection for his three-year term, which expires in June. MSAD #58 School Board Director Kim Robinson will not be seeking reelection for her term, which also expires in June. There are no candidates for that three-year term.

The Kingfield Board of Selectmen meets the first and third Monday of each month. The next meeting will be held April 16 at 6 p.m. in Webster Hall. Meetings are open to the public and attendance is encouraged.

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