FRANKLIN — The specter of reduced grant funding and rising costs due to school consolidation dominated a portion of the discussion at Town Meeting March 28, as did talk about whether to fully fund the request from Ellsworth Public Library.
Residents approved a $648,567.47 budget, of which $380.643.49 will be raised from property taxes; $197,100 from the annual excise tax on vehicles, and $70,823.98 from surplus, user fees and other funds.
Last year’s budget was funded with $358,343.41 in property taxes.
The meeting began at noon and ended just 10 minutes before 4 p.m. Town officials said attendance was more sparse than usual.
One of the longest discussions centered around a report by Jenna Shorey, the town’s representative on the new Regional School Unit 24 (RSU 24).
In her update on the progress of the state-mandated school consolidation, Shorey said RSU 24 is looking for a space to lease that could accommodate the new school administration. Shorey said Superintendent Bill Webster negotiated a fuel oil price for the 2009-2010 heating season, and that RSU 24 is looking at bids for insurance, banking and auditing services.
Shorey said Webster has sent a letter to Maine Education Commissioner Susan Gendron about reports that the new district is now too large to be eligible for rural small schools and after school grants.
Several residents expressed their concern at the loss of the grant funding and other unanticipated costs due to consolidation.
Residents voted to fund the Ellsworth Public Library’s request for $4,185 and voted against hiring a road supervisor as recommended by the Roads Committee.