CASTINE, Maine — Voters at the annual town meeting Saturday will face articles to fund a 17-month budget as the town shifts its fiscal year to match the state and the school fiscal years.
The switch from a Feb. 1 to Jan. 31 fiscal year to a July 1 to June 30 fiscal year comes after a vote at the 2010 annual town meeting. That vote also authorized a shift of the annual town meeting from March to May that will take effect in 2012.
“This is a transition year,” said Karen Motycka, the town’s finance director.
The 17-month budget will fund town and school expenses from Feb. 1, 2011, the start of this fiscal year, through June 30, 2012. The total budget of $4.1 million includes town expenses for that period, the school budget for the coming year, plus a portion of the current-year school budget, according to Motycka.
Because the town and the school have been on different fiscal years, Motycka explained, funding for the school budget has been split over two municipal fiscal years, with voters raising a portion of the current-year school budget and a portion of the next year’s school budget at each town meeting.
The proposed budget includes full funding for the 2011-12 school year, plus the remaining portion of the current, 2010-11 school year.
Adopting a 17-month budget will affect property tax rates for that period, Motycka said. In the annual town report, she estimates the mill rate would rise from $7.10 per $1,000 of property value last year to $9.20 in order to cover the budget for 17 months. Based on that estimate, taxes on property valued at $500,000 would increase from $3,550 this year to $4,600 for the transition period.
In an effort to ease the impact of the 17-month budget, selectmen have proposed that the taxes become due in two installments. The first would be due Aug. 1, 2011, and the second due Feb. 1, 2012.
“The selectmen thought that would make it easier for people,” Motycka said.
After June 30, 2012, the town will return to a regular, 12-month budget cycle, she said.
Also, in an effort to ease the impact of the longer budget, the selectmen did not include much new spending in the transition budget.
“The selectmen knew this budget would be for 17 months and they knew that in this economy, things have been hard,” she said. “They took a hard look at the budget and tried not to add anything new.”
The budget does include funds for a part-time code enforcement officer, a new position which voters approved last year, as well as a request for $7,500 for Fourth of July fireworks, the result of a citizens petition. It also includes $60,000 to continue work on the town’s infrastructure improvements, Motycka said.
Shifting the fiscal year and the town meeting date also will allow the town to start the year with an approved town budget, according to Motycka. Currently, voters approve a budget at town meeting in March, which is almost two months after the town’s fiscal year has started. With the change, at the town meeting in May 2012, voters will vote on the budget for the fiscal year that begins the next July.
“We’ll actually approve a budget before the fiscal year begins,” she said.
The town meeting will begin at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, March 26, at Emerson Hall.