Medway budget cuts sustain mill rate

Posted May 21, 2010, at 10:51 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 11:35 a.m.

MEDWAY, Maine — A schoolteacher will be laid off and the town office closed a day each week as part of proposed town and school budgets that should keep the mill rate at 24.5 mills and increase homeowner taxes by $73.50 per dwelling, officials said Friday.

The Board of Selectmen and the school board overcame state funding shortfalls of $130,000 for municipal purposes and $67,000 in school revenue-sharing by cutting expenses to bring in a proposed 2010-11 municipal budget of $1.06 million, $58,000 less than this year’s, and a school budget of $2.51 million. That’s $56,724 less than the fiscal year that ends June 30, officials said.

Homeowners “will still see an increase in their tax bill,” town Administrative Assistant Kathy Lee said Friday.

The Maine State Legislature opted to change the Homestead Tax Exemption valuation from $13,000 to $10,000 per home this year, though it kept the veterans’ exemption at $6,000 per home. The valuation change causes the $73.50 increase, Lee said.

“We have no control over that,” Treasurer Myra Jewers said.

Voters will decide whether to OK the budgets at a town meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday, June 9, at Medway Middle School.

Jewers said she didn’t think that town leaders would face as many cuts in the 2011-12 town budget.

“I think things will improve with the economy,” Jewers said. “We have a last debt payment we will be eliminating next year, and I think revenues will come around and continue to improve. They are starting to improve now.”

The town will see more revenues from the expansion of the Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. plant on Nicatou Industrial Lane, which occurred in January, Jewers said. The company added more mulch and fertilizer products and a storage shed to the plant.

Selectmen made several cuts or shifts within the budget to overcome the $130,000 shortfall, including reallocating $50,000 from the town’s designated surplus account and placing it back into the town’s general fund, Lee said.

Selectmen cut cost-of-living payroll increases for the town’s nine workers, saving about $9,800; another $9,000 from the payroll accounts of the Public Works Department and town transfer station; and halved $12,000 needed to buy a radio repeater in a purchase required to allow town emergency service providers to continue to use the Penobscot Radio Communications Center in Bangor, Lee said.

Selectmen allocated $20,000 saved from the town office closure to an operational audit that will aim to streamline office efficiency, Jewers said. They cut $4,238 in office and copier supplies and equipment contracts and $2,500 in contributions to outside events and agencies, including the Rivah Days festival, Toys for Tots and the Katahdin Region Chamber of Commerce.

They also opted to restore $30,000 cut from the town paving budget.

though that would not pave too many streets, Lee said, given the cost of asphalt.

Failing to erase the $130,000 deficit and maintaining services would have increased the mill rate 2½ mills. That would have forced residents owning $100,000 worth of property to pay $2,700 in town taxes instead of $2,450.

The school board eliminated 1¾ teaching positions, including a full-time classroom teacher, Union 113 business manager Judy Davis said. The board also cut a vacant music teacher’s position from full-time to half-time and a quarter of the hours paid to a physical education instructor, Davis said. Those cuts saved $67,000.

Another $32,000 was saved by cutting a part-time custodian’s position and leaving an education technician’s position unfilled, Davis said.

Besides the $67,000 shortfall, school board members had to overcome increases in school fuel, heating oil, electricity and transportation costs, including a $30,808 increase in bus transportation for Northern Penobscot-Region III, Davis said. East Millinocket, Medway, Millinocket and Woodville must now bus students to the Lincoln technical school.

Medway has to pay $16,900 more next year because East Millinocket, Millinocket and Medway will no longer share a superintendent with Millinocket having hired its own, Davis said.

Selectmen and town department heads worked long hours finding savings, Jewers said.

“I gave the board the worst-case scenario about two months ago, and they went to work at it,” Jewers said.

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