Roads may get higher priority in Chebeague Island budget

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CHEBEAGUE ISLAND — Next year’s budget could reflect a greater focus on repairing roads, Town Administrator Eric Dyer said last week.

The fiscal 2012 budget is still being developed. Discussion of various town budget departments was scheduled to continue through this week, with discussion of the school budget to take place at the Chebeague Island Hall at 6 p.m. April 20.

One week later, discussion of the capital improvements budget and a review of previously discussed departments will occur. The combined municipal budget will be considered on May 4.

Residents will vote on the budget at Town Meeting in early June.

Next year’s budget should be about the same as the current $2.8 million spending plan, Dyer said. But the fiscal 2012 budget may include a greater emphasis on the town’s capital responsibilities, including its roads, he said.

“Our roads are the major thing on the horizon in the next couple of years,” Dyer said, noting that rehabilitation could be a multimillion-dollar process.

“I’m not sure we’ll get an exact number this year,” Dyer said. “But the intent is that we’d much rather save than borrow for those type of expenses, at this point, and we’re putting everything we can into that over the next couple of years so that when we do decide to do the work, we can either just pick at it with what we have in reserves, or we can borrow and do the whole project.”

He added that “in any event, we know we’re going to need a lot of money, and we know we’re years past doing this work, so most of the roads are in pretty poor shape.”

Work on Wharf and School House roads was budgeted this year and is planned for the summer. The town set aside $60,000 for road work in fiscal years 2008-2010, and then $52,500 along with $100,000 from undesignated funds in fiscal 2011, Dyer said. He said he would like to see at least $100,000 set aside in fiscal 2012.

Marine infrastructure is another key town responsibility, Dyer said.

The school side of expenses is expected to drop slightly, from nearly $889,000 this year to about $887,000 next year.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter at @learics.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.