Naples 2017 budget takes form, leases bring town income
By Dawn De Busk
NAPLES — Budget season is in full swing.
With the audit completed, Naples Town Manager Ephrem Paraschak was able to wrap up a draft of the proposed budget.
The budget draft was copied for the Naples selectmen and for members of the Naples Budget Committee.
On Monday night, Paraschak did not elaborate much on the budget other than to say, “There are very minor increases in the municipal budget” however a reduction in the tax rate is still attainable.
On Tuesday morning, the budget committee met for three hours. The committee’s game plan is to kickstart the process of meeting with department heads.
On Wednesday, Budget Chairman Jim Grattelo provided a summary of the previous day’s meeting.
“Actually, it was really good and productive meeting,” Grattelo said. “Ephrem’s budget was well prepared. We went over it line-by-line.”
“The overall budget is not going to produce a tax increase,” he said, adding the completed school budget will be a factor in whether the mil rate stays stable.
The budget committee met on Tuesday morning with several department heads such as the fire department assistant chief, the rescue chief and the recreation director, Grattelo said. Meanwhile, Paraschak explained expenditures in other departments, he said.
“We are meeting next Tuesday morning with all the outside agencies. They are getting 20 minutes each,” he said.
“Once, we do that, the budget committee will propose what we believe the budget should be,” he said.
Another committee that has had a full workload is the Naples Ordinance Review Committee (ORC). That group has been modifying the language of the Sign Ordinance. The committee has been getting together bi-monthly since the end of summer.
Selectman Kevin Rogers, who has served on the ORC for seven years, brought the board up to speed on the Sign Ordinance.
“The Sign Ordinance — it’s not far off, another meeting or two. Then, we’ll coordinate a meeting with the selectboard,” Rogers said, adding a public hearing will be held before Town Meeting in June.
Paraschak spoke regarding the proposed Sign Ordinance.
“There have been one or two business owners who have asked about the Sign Ordinance,” he said. “Nothing is set in stone. We are open to comments. Any comments that people have are welcome.”
The town manager stressed that there would be a public hearing for the proposed ordinance before it appears as a warrant at the Town Meeting.
Resident Jim Grattelo suggested that the Town office send postcards or letter to all business owners, reminding them of the public hearing — when a date is set.
Rogers said that public input has sometimes shaped the ordinance and is always shared with the committee.
“Every time we have a meeting, she (Code Enforcement Officer Renee Carter) shares comments from the community,” Rogers said. “It does change. Every week, it changes.”
It has been the consensus of the selectmen not to add any requests for ordinances to be clarified or changed until the Ordinance Review Committee finishes with the Sign Ordinance.
Meanwhile, a couple of town committees are still lacking enough members to become active. The Recreation Committee and the Naples Facility Use Committee still need more volunteers.
A few new volunteers have stepped forward recently. One of those people contacted the town hall after attending a board meeting to say she was interested in serving on one of the committees. Another person mentioned their interest to a selectman.
Chairman Bob Caron said, “The trouble is getting more people to volunteer. I know it’s difficult. People have busy schedules and do things in the evening.”
“The more, the merrier,” he said, trying to encourage members of the public to sign up for a committee.
“Come later in the spring, I’d like to get this (committee) rolling. The recreation department has a lot of great programs” and committee members will be making decisions about those, Caron said.
Currently, the town manager is in the process of renewing a couple of leases of town property.
The Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office parole department leases the front office of the Naples Fire and Rescue Department, according to Paraschak. The location allows the parole office to operate in the area.
Long ago, it was used as CCSO substation, he said.
Paraschak has been working on the lease contract with the parole office and he planned to have documents ready by the board’s next meeting on March 13.
Also, Paraschak has been making progress on the town’s behalf with the lease agreement with the United State Post Office.
The post office will continue to lease the space from which it now operates, the building connected to the Town Hall in the Village Green.
“The lease expires in May. We are working on a one-year renewal and then a long-term lease with the post office,” he said.
“Working with consultants is a little difficult,” Paraschak said.
Any lease that is renewed on a yearly basis does not require voter approval at the Town Meeting. Leases that are longer than one year must get the okay of residents at the Town Meeting.
The last lease agreement that the town and the USPO entered into spanned 20 years.
In addition to the two leases, Paraschak has been preparing referrals for bid proposals (RFPs).
The town will be seeking a company to maintain the Causeway during the summer. Also, the town is putting out to bid the contract for mowing the cemeteries.