Freeport groups hold the line on budget requests

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FREEPORT — A handful of local organizations made funding appeals to the Town Council at a workshop Tuesday, and all of their requests were modest.

Freeport Community Services, the Port Teen Center, the Freeport Economic Development Corp. and the Freeport Elders made budget requests for the coming fiscal year, and each group asked the council for a sum less than or equal to the amount they received from the town in 2013-2014.

Municipal budgets have tightened in recent years as aid from Augusta has decreased, but Councilor Rich DeGrandpre suggested another reason for the organizations’ measured requests: They know who they’re asking.

“I think all of us on the council are fiscally conservative,” DeGrandpre said. “Freeport’s municipal budget, its increases have always been fairly modest. We’re looking to get good value for the money.”

Freeport Community Services asked the town to renew its allocation of $16,000 for operations and $5,000 for a camp scholarship fund.

The organization said it saw a marked increase over the past year in the need for its food pantry and fuel fund services, due in part to severe winter weather conditions, reductions in food stamp allocation, and the elimination of unemployment benefits and the circuit breaker program.

FCS, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary, provides a wide range of services, from transportation and school supplies, to medical loans and emergency assistance.

“We are the area of last resort for a lot of people,” FCS President Tom Bull said.

The Port Teen Center requested $7,500, the same amount it received from the town the past two years. That sum would comprise a little less than 20 percent of the organization’s estimated funding for the coming year.

The teen center also depends on an annual $5,000 contribution from Regional School Unit 5, an equal donation from L.L. Bean, and a variety of fundraising efforts.

The center offers a variety of after-school and outdoor activities for middle and high school students. Several students attended Tuesday’s workshop and spoke on behalf of the center, saying it gives them a place to study and socialize when they might otherwise be spending time alone, waiting for their parents to get home from work.

But coordinator Darryn Dushane estimated the center would finish this fiscal year with more than $6,000 in operating losses. A draft budget for next year made similar predictions.

“We can’t go on forever like this,” Dushane said.

The Freeport Economic Development Corp. petitioned the town for $95,000, down from the $105,000 it received this year and the $119,00 it received the year before. Executive Director Keith McBride said there could be as much as $8,500 from this year’s allocation that goes unspent.

Next year, the organization plans to channel up to $10,000 into marketing for Vision 2025, a broad initiative that includes attracting businesses to Freeport.

The Freeport Elders, a senior citizens’ group, announced their intent to request $5,000, the same amount they received from the town last year, though representative Pat Pooter encouraged the councilors to increase support.

“This is a place where you can come and nobody judges you,” Pooter said, describing the organization. “We laugh, we joke, we cry sometimes. We’re still contributing members of society.”

Formal budget requests are due to the town over the next two weeks.

Brendan Twist can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or Follow him on Twitter: @brendantwist.