Orrington budget down, taxes up

Posted May 29, 2009, at 9:08 p.m.

ORRINGTON, Maine — The combined school and town budget is decreasing substantially, but so is the amount of undesignated funds the town will use to offset taxes, Town Manager Paul White said Friday.

The net result is an expected tax increase.

“There will be an increase based on what we’re projecting,” White said.

The tax rate is expected to increase by between 0.75 and 1 mill, which means a home with an assessed value of $100,000 would pay between $75 to $100 more in taxes, he said.

Residents will get an opportunity to vote on the budget, and a number of other warrant articles, at Monday’s annual town meeting. Residents can hit the polls between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday to vote for local town and school officials, and the annual town meeting is 7:30 that evening at Center Drive School

Preliminary 2009-10 figures show a combined total budget of approximately $8.96 million, which includes a town budget figure of $2,293,028, an increase of $191,847; $356,000 for Penobscot County taxes, a $6,278 increase; and $6,160,951 for the school budget, which is a decrease of $203,765.

Last year’s combined school and town budget was slightly less than $9.39 million, but was inflated with $450,000 in undesignated carry-forward funds that were used to keep taxes lower, White said.

“We’re not going to do that,” he said.

The draft budget also includes an extra $25,000 for the vehicle reserve fund, bringing that budget line up to $100,000, along with $50,000 for the municipal building reserve and $25,000 for the economic development fund.

“We are not adequately funding those reserves like we should,” White said. “We know we have a need.”

To deal with a $96,344 decrease in state education funding, and the $170,000 penalty for not joining the proposed Regional School Unit 15, two teachers who are leaving will not be replaced, Superintendent Allen Snell said recently.

“We’ve had three retire from the teaching staff and one person who has resigned,” he said. “We’re not replacing two of those positions.”

Other posts also will be decreased, Snell said. Because of a new state law, residents will have to return to the polls on June 15 for the school budget validation referendum.

It has been a challenge to develop the budget with shortfalls in revenues from excise tax, reductions in interest rates and revenue sharing, White said.

“All of those things play into this,” he said. “This is not going to go away this year. It’s going to be there for another year or two, and the town needs to address it.”

Two incumbents and a former selectman are running for two seats that are up for grabs during the local election. Incumbents Christine Lavoie and Kevin Allcroft are running against former Selectman James “Jim” Goody for the two available three-year terms.

School board incumbent Kevin Hanscom is running unopposed for his seat, which also is a three-year term.

In addition to the budget, residents also will review several other warrant articles that deal with accepting a strip of land, Pleasant Hill Lane, from Larry Pelletier; creating a 230-foot setback for self storage buildings; enacting an animal control ordinance; using $300,000 in undesignated funds to repair the sand and salt shed; and adding a 1,200-square-foot addition onto the historic town hall for $150,000.

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