CASTINE, Maine — Town officials are making preparations to change the town’s fiscal year from February-January to July-June, which would coincide with the state and school department fiscal years.
Voters approved the change at the annual meeting last March.
In order to make the change, the selectmen are in the process of developing a 17-month budget that will run from Feb. 1 this year to June 30, 2012, according to Karen Motycka, the town’s finance director. The town would return to a one-year budget on the fiscal year that will begin July 1, 2012.
The 17-month budget will be presented to voters at this year’s annual town meeting.
Although the budget will include a new expense in the form of debt service payments on a $2.5 million town infrastructure project completed last year, Motycka said the selectmen are developing a very conservative budget for the transition period.
“Looking ahead 12 months, there are always things you can plan for and others that you can’t. You’re always looking into a crystal ball,” she said Monday. “Looking 17 months into the future is always a little bit more interesting. The selectmen are keeping the belt tight for the operating budget and aren’t planning on a whole lot of new projects.”
The change in fiscal year will allow the town to line up with the state and school fiscal years which will make it easier for the town to manage its budgeting process, according to Motycka. It also will involve moving the town meeting to May, which will allow voters to approve a budget before the start of the next fiscal year.
“We’ll actually have a budget before the start of the year,” Motycka said. “That will be different.”
The biggest difference for residents, however, will be in their property tax bills.
According to Motycka, when tax bills come out later in the year, they will reflect the 17-month budget and will be larger than normal. She said the town already has plans to allow taxpayers to split their payments.
“Normally, they pay their bills in one installment,” Motycka said. “This year, they’ll be able to pay in two installments, six months apart.”
Most of these plans had been developed in advance of the town meeting vote last year, Motycka said, and were discussed with voters before that vote.