Bucksport council sets preliminary budget

Posted May 24, 2011, at 10:56 p.m.

BUCKSPORT, Maine — Town councilors will meet Thursday to adopt the $5.3 million town budget for the coming fiscal year which begins on July 1.

The meeting, which also includes public hearings on the town budget, the capital improvement plan and the sewer operating budget, begins at 7 p.m. in the council chambers.

The council last week approved a preliminary municipal budget of $5,333,522 for the coming fiscal year. Combined with the town’s assessment from RSU 25 of $5,443,803, the total budget figure for next year will be $10,777,325.

Based on the preliminary figures, Town Manager Roger Raymond said the budget would meet the councilors’ goal of not increasing property taxes. Although Raymond said there would be some minor changes recommended during the budget meeting on Thursday, they will not increase property taxes.

“We believe we will be able to approve this budget without an increase in property taxes,” he said.

During budget discussions last week, councilors cut funds from the community and social services accounts and in a split vote rejected salary increases for the non-unionized town employees. Among the agenda items for Thursday’s council meeting is the setting of salaries and wages for non-contractual employees.

According to Raymond, the budget currently includes no funds for any salary increases other than those included in existing contracts. Some union employees are eligible for step increases under the current contract, he said.

The town is currently negotiating with several unions, but Raymond declined to discuss those contract talks or to predict what impact they might have on the budget.

“The council indicated that they did not want property taxes to go up, and we have included no funds for any increases,” Raymond said. “We are still negotiating, and those negotiations will take us where they take us.”

The budget includes an increase of $69,108 in the General Government Account, reflecting hikes in the cost of workers compensation and health insurance.

Fuel costs were the main factor behind an increase of $26,923 in the Streets and Ways account. Fuel prices, increased vacation and salary step increases were responsible for a $29,076 jump in the Protection account.

The Capital Improvement account increased by $88,000 to $662,700. That total includes a one-time allocation of $100,000 toward the purchase of a new fire truck.

The town also saw a significant increase in its share of the RSU 25 school budget. The $5,443,803 assessment to the town represents an increase of $156,786. According to Raymond, the hike was caused by a roughly $50 million increase in the town’s state valuation. That jump in value also affected the town’s county tax assessment, which increased by $11,851 to $259,087.

The total proposed budget could have resulted in an increase of $277,755 or 3.67 percent in the amount to be raised through property taxes. Raymond said, however, the town planned to use funds from its overlay account, plus an increase in revenues from the state Business Equipment Tax Exemption (BETE) program to offset that amount and keep the property tax level at its current rate of 12.52 mills.

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