2018-04-19 / Front Page

Council adopts $24.3M spending plan

Tax rate would increase 19 cents with voter OK
BY TIM RIEL

The town council adopted a $24.3 million budget Monday for fiscal year 2018-19 that represents a 2.5 percent uptick from the current spending plan.

To pay for the proposed levy of $19.8 million, the property tax rate will need to increase by 19 cents to $8.85 per $1,000 valuation, which represents a 2.1 percent uptick.

Voters will decide on this measure at the financial town meeting in June.

While the overall budget represents $548,000 more in government spending, the surge was even gloomier as policymakers headed down the homestretch, with a rate increase of 29 cents projected in early April. A week later, however, the town councilors recommended $60,000 in budget relief from Fort Getty adjustments while the school committee was able to slash $101,000 from its plan.

Slight growth in the tax roll also contributed to the dime reduction, Town Administrator Andy Nota said.

The education cuts, which were approved by the school committee last Thursday, stem from a $10,000 reduction to the district’s new three-year busing contract and $91,000 axed from the special education budget. That downtick is because a student is leaving the district.

The school board also reinstated salary increases for the administrative team, which includes the superintendent, director of student services, finance director, maintenance director and both principals.

When the budget was introduced in February, the proposed increase was 5.1 percent. That’s when administrators voluntarily declined their raises for the 2019 fiscal year. Since then, however, school officials have been able to cut the budget proposal by nearly a full percentage point. Insurance premiums also will be lower in the upcoming year, which will offset the salary increases, according to Jane Littlefield, business manager.

The school department approved a $13.3 million budget that includes a town appropriation of $11.67 million, which is $469,000 more than the current year. That, however, does not include $263,081 in debt service.

Despite the increase, the school board has defended the measure, saying the upticks are inescapable because they are fueled by tuition (up 9 percent to $3.15 million), special education (up 16 percent to $3.05 million) and contractual raises for the teachers.

“It’s super lean,” Committeewoman Sally Schott said. “As much as we would love to add things, we just can’t this year.”

Last-minute adjustments on the municipal side, which were recommended by Councilwoman Mary Meagher, focus primarily on Fort Getty.

The first change approved Monday will increase annual revenue by $35,000 to $510,000. While campers at the trailer park will foot most of the boosted bill, a smaller portion will come from increased program costs and facility rental fees.

Meagher also recommended slashing one-third from the $75,000 line item for the Fort Getty reserve. If the remaining $50,000 is approved by voters, the fund will increase to $245,000, which Nota said “should be a sufficient amount to address the replacement of the gatehouse and to rehabilitate the lower restroom building.”

The municipal side of the budget totals $10.74 million; taxpayers will be responsible for nearly $8.3 million of that spending plan, a $97,000 increase from the current year.

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