HAMPDEN, Maine — Town councilors will hold a public hearing Monday, June 15, before voting whether to adopt a municipal budget that holds the tax rate steady at $15.90.
In order to achieve that goal, $173,000 was trimmed from expenses, largely by freezing municipal salaries and altering hours at the Hampden town office.
“What we did ensures that everyone keeps their jobs and ensures that we continue to provide the same level of services to people,” Town Manager Sue Lessard said Thursday. “I can’t say enough about our [employee] unions for opening up their bargaining contracts to allow [wage freezes].”
The total for municipal, school and county taxation is proposed at $8.9 million and of that total, $3.2 million comes on the municipal side. The school budget, which was approved by voters earlier this week, represented an increase of about $90,000 and Hampden’s share of Penobscot County taxes is expected to increase by $23,000.
Lessard said town staff and councilors decided early in the budget process to come up with a responsible way to keep costs down on the municipal side.
“We started talking literally at the beginning of the year, not necessarily about line items, but about an overall budget philosophy,” she said. “When we did get down to numbers, the council was on board.”
One of the cost-cutting measures — closing the town office on Fridays and extending hours Monday through Thursday — already has been implemented. Town office hours are now 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday.
“With the four-day weeks, we’ve seen more traffic in early morning and later afternoon hours, which people seem to like because they can come in before and after work,” the town manager said.
By closing the municipal building on three consecutive days, the town can save money on heating and cooling costs.
Lessard said as diligent as she and her employees have been about the budget process, she predicted that next year and the year after will be even more difficult.
“What we’ve done this year puts us in a better position to weather that,” she said.
Members of the public will be allowed to comment on the proposed budget before a vote by town councilors. The meeting will begin at 7 p.m.