CASTINE, Maine — Trustees at Maine Maritime Academy on Friday threw their support behind the administration’s plan to provide financial support to the town of Castine for municipal infrastructure projects that directly benefit the college.
The “voluntary community support contribution” will total $85,000 from the college to the town for two specific areas: water service and capital improvements to town roads.
The funding comes in response to a request from the town for more financial aid to the town in addition to payments the college historically has made to Castine toward the Fire Department, law enforcement and regional dispatch service.
David Unger, chairman of Castine’s Board of Selectmen, said Friday that the proposed support from MMA meets the town’s request, which was based on municipal services that directly affect the college.
Of the total amount, $50,000 would go toward water service. Although water and sewer usage is metered and billed to users, the Castine Water Co., under Public Utilities Commission rules, also must bill the town for fire protection or “hydrant rental,” within the service area. The $50,000 amount, which will vary from year to year, represents the college’s share for hydrant rental based on its annual water bill.
The remaining $35,000 would be allocated toward town infrastructure improvements. According to Unger, the town has begun a 25-year infrastructure improvement project, working in five-year increments. The first phase of the project, completed last year, has involved improvements to the water and sewer lines and to roads and drainage.
Richard Ericson, MMA’s vice president for finance, administration and governmental affairs, noted that the improvements, particularly to Battle Avenue and other roads near the college, were a direct benefit to the college.
“The roads in town are certainly better than they were,” he said.
The town had requested that MMA make the $35,000 payment for each of the five years of the current phase of the improvement program. Ericson stressed, however, that the college was committing only to pay one payment at this time.
“This will be done on an annual basis,” he said. “We have no obligation to make it [the payment]. This is not a contract.”
The $85,000 will be given to the town in the next fiscal year that starts on July 1 and, according to President Brennan, would be included in the new budget being developed by the college. He indicated that the board did not need to vote on this separately at this time, but Trustee Robert Peacock said he felt it was important for the board to show its support for the arrangement with the town.
In other action, the trustees adopted a resolution instructing the administration to work to keep any tuition increase to 4 percent or less for in-state students in the coming year.
In-state tuition is now $8,280.
Tuition increased by a little under 4 percent last year, Ericson said, and the college will strive to maintain that level of increase or less this year. A lot will depend on how much the state allocates toward the college’s budget.
“At this point, we’ve received little, if any, guidance as to what the [Gov. Paul LePage] administration is going to provide,” he said. “That’s a critical number to determine what goes on with the rest of the [college’s] operating budget.”
The trustees will vote on the operating budget at their next regular meeting in May.
Meanwhile, the trustees also voted to spend 5 percent of the average market value of the college’s endowment fund, or $556,597 for student scholarships. That’s about $20,000 more than the board approved for scholarships last year.