BUCKSPORT, Maine — Town councilors on Thursday approved a $10.8 million budget that represents a total of almost $500,000 in new spending, but keeps the local tax rate even.
The budget includes a $5,454,677 municipal budget and a $5,443,585 assessment toward the RSU 25 school budget for a total increase of $496,436 or 4.77 percent over the current budget.
Town Manager Roger Raymond noted that the budget maintained both services and employees and also included funding for capital improvements.
“The main impact of this budget is, basically, we keep all our people; we’ve had no layoffs,” Raymond told the councilors, adding that many other service center communities have had to lay off personnel during tough economic times.
“We’ve been able to keep all services and employees,” he said, “and we have continued to fund our capital improvement plan.”
The budget, however, did not include any salary increases for employees other than those stipulated in existing contracts. Raymond had previously noted that councilors set a priority of keeping the tax rate even and so the budget included no wage increases, despite the fact that the town currently is in contract talks with unionized workers.
In a split vote last week, councilors decided not to increase wages for nonunion town workers and backed that up Thursday with another vote setting those salaries at current levels.
The total $5.4 million municipal budget includes only one major change from the preliminary budget that the council approved last week. Raymond explained that the councilors approved adding $120,000 to the streets and ways account in order to do additional paving in the coming year. He said they voted to take that $120,000 from surplus to cover the added cost, and so the change would not affect the bottom line of the budget.
The budget includes increases that reflect higher costs for health insurance and fuel costs. It also includes additional funding for the capital improvement account.
The town’s assessment for the school budget this year is $5.4 million, an increase of $156,786, despite a significant decrease in the overall RSU budget. Raymond had indicated that the jump in the town’s share was due mainly to a $50 million increase in the town’s state valuation.
The total budget would have resulted in an increase of $277,755 or 3.67 percent in the amount to be raised through property taxes. But, according to Raymond, the town received more revenues than anticipated through the Business Equipment Tax Exemption reimbursement from the state, which will be used to reduce that tax obligation. The town also will draw down the remaining funds from its overlay account in order to keep the tax rate at its current level of 12.52 mills.