Government Spotlight

FY22 Budget Public Hearing Wed. March 10 at 6:30 pm on Zoom

The budget committee will hold a public hearing on the proposed FY21-22 budget March 10 at 6:30 pm on Zoom.  For Zoom codes to login and to see the updated detailed budget breakdown, click here.

With no in-person town meeting this year, the public hearing represents the community’s opportunity to ask questions and learn more.

The budget documents now online set the budget committee’s and board of selectmen’s draft budgets side by side, along with approved budgets from prior years for comparison. 

The budget committee and select board’s respective bottom lines are close. Less than $20,000 separates them on the key proposed Operations budget of $3.9 million, up from $3.6 million for the current year, an increase of some 6 percent. Yellow highlighter and footnotes on the breakdown sheets detail the differences between the two groups’ working budgets. Neither budget is yet final.

On the expenditure side, Public Works, Fire Rescue, Administration (town hall), and Solid Waste (transfer station) once again join Insurance and Benefits among significant lines. Public Works (account 116) currently sees a proposed 1.9% increase from the budget committee versus a 2.93% increase from the select board. Fire Rescue (117) is up 0.72% from the budget committee versus a 1.5% select board increase. Administration (102) is up 15.14% under both, and the transfer station (120) up 6.72% under both.

Under both budgets Paving (149) is pegged at $342,554, a 17.8% increase over the current year. Town Farm Road, Swamp Road, Megquire Road, and Chestnut Common are slated for major improvements.

To review individual accounts, scroll through the breakdowns (look for green sheets). “Totals” at the end show respective percentage increases and decreases over the current year. Again, all numbers are tentative for now.

Seeming differences between the select board and budget committee budgets are less significant than they appear.  The board’s and committee’s Capital Projects lines look wildly different – the select board with $1.1 million and the committee with $230,000. But it’s a distinction without a difference concerning financing the $760,000 Stevens Brook dam and culvert project.  Both the board and committee support the project, but the select board’s higher number reflects a plan to have the town initially fund the project and subsequently secure a bond; the budget committee figures assumed bonding first.

Cumberland County tax figures also are different across the two budgets. The budget committee uses the actual Cumberland County figure, $391,716, while the select board reflects an earlier placeholder estimate of $412,297.

Both the budget and resulting estimated tax rate necessarily remain tentative awaiting several key variables, including final budget numbers from SAD 15. A $5.9 million placeholder with a five percent increase over last year’s school budget fills that line for now.  With caveats and asterisks, the working FY22 budgets show a possible increase in the mil rate from the current $13.65 per thousand to $14.23 or $14.29 per thousand, depending which group’s figures are used.        

Immediately following tonight’s hearing, the budget committee will finalize its recommendations—advisory only—to the board of selectmen.  The board will then determine budget numbers for the warrant.  

Again this year, voters will approve budget articles by written ballot, as part of the June 8 municipal election, rather than at a public town meeting.  In addition, a special ballot vote is slated for April to approve funding for the Stevens Brook dam and culvert replacement project and for the acquisition of a loader for the transfer station.

This is your chance to learn more. Join the public hearing at 6:30 on Zoom

— Joanne Cole