Busy weeks for budget committees

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

NAPLES — For those who volunteer their time to local budget committees, the weeks are ticking away until Town Meeting.

Really, the deadline to get a finished product before town selectmen comes sooner than that June date. The budget process is not just about crunching numbers. It requires working under a time crunch.

Budget committees in Raymond and Casco have been gathering regularly for the past couple months — each putting in about a half-dozen meetings.

In Naples, while the proposed budget is sound, the Naples Budget Committee has been working with a deficit when it comes to the number of people. Currently, five of the seven seats are vacant.

The number of members dropped from three to two after one person made the decision to move to another town, according to Naples Town Manager Ephrem Paraschak.

The vacancies on the Naples Budget Committee have been advertised; and, there has been little response so far, he said.

Still, Paraschak thinks that a few residents will step forward, which will provide that committee with a quorum.

Mark Scribner and Richard Cross are the remaining duo on the budget committee.

People interested in volunteering for a budget committee seat may contact the Naples Town Office and speak with Kate Matthews, according to the town website.

In the neighboring town of Casco, the seven-person committee is only two seats shy of full.

There are currently five people, including longtime committee members Sam Brown and Alice Darlington — both of whom updated the Casco Board of Selectmen in February. Also, Cumberland County Commissioner Susan Witonis serves on the town committee as well as Lewis Wetzel.

According to Town Manager Dave Morton, three is the minimum number of people for a quorum.

The group gathers on Wednesday evening at the Casco Fire Station off Route 121.

This week, the committee reviews the proposed budgets of the Casco Public Library and the Naples-Casco Transfer Site and Bulky Waste Facility, according to Morton.

While finding enough volunteers to fill the seats has not been much of a problem, the people sitting in those chairs are tasked with choices that could affect the tax rate, Morton said.

“The challenge is always doing the most possible with limited resources, trying to accomplish all that is needed and trying to avoid raising tax rates,” he said.

The committee must work to “address all the areas of municipal responsibility,” Morton said.

The Town of Raymond’s budget committee differs from Casco and Naples in two ways.

First, the Raymond Budget/Finance Committee is comprised of nine people rather than a maximum of two.

The number of people on the committee reflects the population. According to the 2010 Census, Raymond has a population of 4,436, outpacing that of Naples and Casco by approximately 500 to 700 people.

Secondly, voters elect budget committee members during the Primary Election in June, while budget committee members in Casco and Naples are appointed by the boards of selectmen.

According to Raymond Town Manager Don Willard, this is a check and balance.

“The selectmen are like the Senate, and the finance committee is like the House. They are not handpicked by the selectmen,” Willard said.

Three current budget committee members have taken out nomination papers so far, he said.

Those people who are planning to run for the budget committee seats are: Peter Dunn, Robert Gosselin and Debra Duchaine.

However, Duchaine has also picked up nomination papers for the RSU 14 School Board seat; and has not decided if she will seek election for both jobs, Willard said.

According to Willard, there are not any “ideal qualifications” for an applicant.

“People who have experience in finance would be desirable. Just like being on the board of selectmen, people can come from various backgrounds. I’ve had retired school administrators and accountants and small business owners,” Willard said.

One starring quality is “whoever shows interest,” he said.

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