New Gloucester Town Budget: Public Hearing Wed. March 1 at 7 p.m.

While the rest of us were shoveling, eleven dedicated citizen-volunteers were working on New Gloucester’s Fiscal Year ’18 budget with the help of Town staff. The result of the Budget Committee’s efforts will be open to public comment and questions on Wed. March 1 at 7 p.m. at the Meeting House. You can study up ahead of time: the proposed FY18 budget in line-item detail—from postage to plowing—is available for download here. The 119-page document sets out the Budget Committee’s FY18 recommendations alongside those of the Board of Selectmen, with prior years’ data included for comparison. Following the March 1 public hearing, the Committee and the Selectmen will finalize their respective budget recommendations for voters’ consideration at Town Meeting on Monday, May 1.

The municipal budget is only part of a larger tax picture that includes the county and schools. Indeed, if New Gloucester residents’ total tax expenditures were a pie, the town’s slice can resemble what your weight-conscious cousin takes at Thanksgiving so as not to offend Aunt Rose. Last year, for example, more than three-quarters of the tax-dollar pie went to the SAD 15 school budget and Cumberland County. Even considered on its own, though, this year’s proposed $3.9 million municipal-only budget is “particularly challenging,” according to Town Manager Paul First. On the plus side: roughly $2.5 million in new construction added to property tax rolls and neighbors helpfully buying new cars and chipping in excise taxes. More than offsetting those gains, however: an increase in the Homestead Exemption courtesy of the Legislature, an approximately 4 percent increase in town departments’ operating expenses, and significant capital projects, including equipment for the fire department, emergency rescue, and public works department, library repairs, bridge work, and more. All told, the Selectmen’s proposed FY18 municipal budget results in roughly a 6 percent tax increase.

To soften the tax impact, the Selectmen plan to tap undesignated funds, including some unanticipated surplus from last year’s light winter, robust excise revenues, and avoided salary from unfilled positions. In addition, the Selectmen asked every town department to pare back its initial budget request; all responded positively and equitably, according to Town Manager First. Those cuts are reflected in the Selectmen’s proposed budget. Meanwhile, the Budget Committee has conducted its own parallel independent budget review. Learn more about its budget recommendations, the process that produced them, and the larger context Wednesday March 1 at 7 p.m. at the Meeting House in New Gloucester Village.