March 16, 2015

Raymond town leaders respond to community survey - By Walter Lunt

 “While the citizens support many things…they also said they want to keep taxes reasonable. That can be a conflicting message” – Joe Bruno, Raymond Select Board

Uplifting was the word Raymond Select Board member Sam Gifford used to describe the results of a recent community survey that found residents to be relatively happy with their quality of life and town services (Survey reveals overall satisfaction in Raymond – The Windham Eagle, Feb. 27). Administered and analyzed in late 2014 by the research and consulting firm Pan Atlantic SMS Group of Portland, the conclusions revealed an overall satisfaction on such matters as police, fire and rescue; public works; trash collection; and town hall and other various departments.

The survey instrument also examined residents’ feelings on taxes, new programs and the possible expansion of current services. Nearly 40 percent of respondents were against any tax increase or did not favor additional services or new projects. However, just over 31 percent indicated they might consider a one or two percent increase for certain additional services, chiefly in the areas of conservation (open space, milfoil eradication), library (expanded funding contribution for the Raymond Village Library), economic development (jobs, expanded economic base), and alternative high speed internet and/or providers (e.g. fiber optics). An additional 23 percent of respondents said they would consider tax hikes above two percent.

Selectman Joe Bruno said the survey shows that citizens are happy with the direction of the town, “but when asked how much of a tax increase (they are) willing to pay, the result didn’t match up with the amount of services wanted. I don’t want to take the survey and use it to justify higher spending, which is a big concern of mine.”

Board member Teresa Sadak said the survey helps show that “the town would like to grow, but (wants to) find inventive ways to keep taxes low.” For Sadak the biggest surprise in the results concerned the degree of unhappiness with the RSU consolidation with Windham, “I knew people were not happy but (the survey) really showed how unhappy.”

Bruno, who chairs a committee looking into the dissolution of the school unit, likewise seemed dismayed at the degree of dissatisfaction saying, “I’m hoping our representatives to the RSU look at that and try to make things better and more equitable for Raymond citizens.” The two towns will vote March 18 on a change to the cost sharing formula used to support schools in the RSU. The current proposal would lessen Raymond’s financial obligation over three years.

John Rand, head of the Raymond Conservation Commission, said he was pleased to hear about the citizen support for open space and other environmental projects, “That’s why people move Raymond,” he said, and added he hopes for continued support of the Raymond Community Forest, a 350 acre forest management project in North Raymond.

Sally Holt, director of the Raymond Village Library, wasn’t too surprised with the survey support for the enhancement of library services. She said she’s been hearing it from patrons for quite some time, and added, “The library should thrive and transition.”

In addition to the overall positive results of the community survey, Select Board member Gifford, who heads the Raymond Revitalization Committee, said he was also pleased to hear the level of support for economic development. He said people need to be aware of the survey results to help influence the long range vitality of the community.

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