Warrant Committee Hopes NonProfits Will Pitch In For School Construction

Warrant Committee and Town Council Meet Tonight To Talk Budget

Carrie Jones

BAR HARBOR—The Warrant Committee met Monday night to wade through the budget recommendations that it will give to the Town Council this evening.

The Bar Harbor Warrant Committee’s subcommittees gathered information about each of its assigned budget areas. The chairs of each went through suggested motions with the committee as a whole. A computer glitch occurred which prevented the first minutes of the public meeting to be televised and created a 23 minute delay.

Last week a warrant subcommittee’s agenda originally read that it could be attended via Zoom, but that agenda was updated and that option was stripped.

While none of the recommendations from the Monday night session are the official recommendations, those come after the Town Council’s budget process, they do help give a flavor of the current Warrant Committee thoughts about several budget topics.

Those topics include a unanimous recommendation to support the planning department’s recommendation of a 6 percent increase of all code enforcement fees except for vacation rental fees. They also supported increasing all of the planning fees by 10 percent. The cost recovery for those fees is about 30 percent. There have been no planning fee increases since 2017. Chair Seth Libby also recommended that the committee recommend to the council to possibly supplement legal fees line in the budget via $500,000 reserve.


There was a long discussion about payments in lieu of taxes (PILOTs).

Some nonprofits and not-for-profits and government agencies choose to make a PILOT because they recognize that they (like taxpayers) use the services of the town such as fire response, police response, road infrastructure, and schools, and also that while performing their missions take up land that might normally be taxed. The Jackson Lab contributed $112,409 in FY2022; the MDI Bio Lab contributed $10,000; the housing authority contributed over $34,000; and the College of the Atlantic contributed $8,500.

Warrant Committee member Eben Salvatore wanted to form a working group to take a hard look at the PILOTs that nonprofits, not-for-profits, and government agencies give to support the town budget. Those agencies do not have to pay property taxes. Salvatore hoped to create the group so that it could ask the Jackson Laboratory for $2 million every year for the next 20 years to support the Conners Emerson School rebuild, which is currently expected to cost about $58 million.

Libby didn’t think that question or recommendation was in the scope of the meeting. Vice Chair Julie Berberian wondered if that was within the committee’s purview to take that kind of initiative without the Town Council’s direction. Caleb Cough worried about singling out particular nonprofits.

Salvatore said that the elected members of the warrant committee don’t answer to the council, but to the voters and that the night’s action would lead to the proper format for the discussion.

Libby said that the PILOTs are a good topic, but his concern, much like Berberian’s, is that the Warrant Committee is meant to be reactive not proactive and doesn’t have independent authority to investigate. Carol Chappell said that the discussion could come under the general governance subcommittee and if it occurred, shouldn’t be part of a working committee. She was also uncomfortable with tying it to the school. Bob Chapin said it would be worth it to talk to each nonprofit and hear their views.

“This is our chance for the future, for our town, for the upcoming children,” Salvatore said.

A couplet of motions failed to support Salvatore’s idea. However, the committee unanimously passed an eventual motion that the Town Council forms a working group to reach out to nonprofits and other agencies to donate more money to the town for the school rebuild project.

Salvatore said that he felt that the discussion with nonprofits needed to be specific to a project rather than a general ask, which hasn’t ever worked before. Louise Lopez agreed.

“Everyone in town uses the school as a recruitment tool,” Lopez said.


All except Cough voted in favor of supporting the planning department request for a new housing and community planner.


A split committee (9-6) agreed to not recommend a staff planner. Megan Kelly, Lopez, Bethany Reece, Ezra Sassaman, Allison Sassner, and Secretary Chris Smith voted against the measure.


The group agreed that cooperating agencies should all be funded at their 2024 requests. Cough did not vote because at an earlier meeting it was determined that Cough had a conflict of interest because his stepmother (Town Councilor Erin Cough) works for one of those agencies that usually receive money from the town. Caleb Cough does not live with his stepmother.


Both the library and the YMCA requested additional money for the fiscal year 2024 budget. The library’s request was for $119,000 for employee benefits. The Y’s $50,000 request was for help with its operating expenses. At a meeting last week, the council seemed tentatively in favor of using ARPA funds to support the asks. The Warrant Committee does not get to consider ARPA funds when making budget recommendations and several members expressed worry about using those funds to staff positions.

“It’s essentially a grenade that you have to deal with a year later,” Libby said.

The board moved (9-3) to recommend keeping the library funding at $160,000 and not support the additional $119,000.

Cough declared a conflict of interest about voting about the YMCA increase request for $50,000 because a family member is on that board. The board decided he did not have a conflict. Eben Salvatore abstained from the vote. He is on the board.


The committee recommended that the council consider a more cost effective alternative for the school’s request for a hybrid van and also increasing the budget to support infrastructure needs and construction needs for the Conners Emerson School. The worry, Libby said, if the bond is not approved, is that the school will be in the same position it was this winter with more and more water infiltration from the roof and walls.

“This school may be in immediate need come June,” he said.

Lopez said, that even if voters approve the school construction bond, there is still going to be a need for maintenance in the five years before the school is built.  

The current balance in the capital improvement line for school repair is $565,837.


Tonight, the Town Council and Warrant Committee will meet in a joint session at the Bar Harbor Municipal Building on Cottage Street. The council chambers are on the third floor. It is an open meeting and the public can attend. It begins at 6:30.

Meetings that are broadcast live like this one can be viewed at home by watching Cable Access Channel 7 or 1303 (Spectrum Cable only) and online at Town Hall Streams.


Warrant Committee Information

Budget Documents

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