HERMON, Maine — Hermon councilors Thursday began their first reading of the town manager’s $4.9 million municipal spending plan for the coming fiscal year, marking the start of this year’s budget development.
The work will continue Tuesday during a special council meeting set for 7 p.m. in the public safety meeting room.
Town Manager Clint Deschene said Friday that the $4,931,450 budget plan for municipal operations in the coming fiscal year would maintain the status quo in terms of staffing and services and includes funding for road and parking lot construction and a cemetery expansion.
Municipal expenditures would be offset by a projected $3,082,410 in revenues, a figure that includes $200,000 in unrestricted net assets, informally known as fund balance, and $238,000 in state revenue sharing, according to Deschene.
School officials last year requested $3,924,444 for Hermon’s share of education costs, Deschene said. In the year ahead, however, the portion of the school budget to be borne by local taxpayers is expected to increase somewhat because of uncertainty about what schools can expect to receive in state assistance.
Deschene said Friday that he has yet to receive a budget request from school officials but as a working figure he plugged in a 5 percent increase for an estimate of $4,120,667.
Though changes are likely to be made as the council begins its deliberations, the budget as proposed would increase the town’s property tax rate from $11.47 per $1,000 in property valuation to $12.88 per $1,000 in property valuation.
To reduce the tax rate to $12.49 per $1,000 in property valuation, the council could opt to cut the $140,000 earmarked for road and parking lot construction and use unrestricted net assets, formerly known as surplus, to cover the cost of a proposed $75,000 cemetery expansion, Deschene said in a memo to Town Council members.
Other budget issues that might be reconsidered include the purchase of a property at 299 Fuller Road, next door to the town office, and a firetruck, both of which were shot down by voters earlier this year. About 50 voters participated in the special town meeting.
At that time, residents expressed support for the Fire Department but some were concerned that the truck town officials were eyeing might not be the right model or size and wanted the matter brought back before them in June.
Some opponents of the property purchase, which town officials said would provide growth space for town and public safety operations, said the town didn’t need the property and that the timing was poor, given the economy.
Though the town had no specific plans for the property next door, local officials thought it made sense to buy the adjacent parcel now because it might be more difficult — and costly — to try to do that should the town need the property in the future.