May 22, 2018
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State funding uncertainties delay Hermon town, school budget votes

By Dawn Gagnon, BDN Staff

HERMON, Maine — Uncertainties over how much Hermon can expect in state funding from several key programs prompted town officials to delay this year’s annual elections, town meeting and school budget votes.

Traditionally scheduled for next week, this year’s town council and school committee elections have been rescheduled for Tuesday, June 25. The polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Hermon Elementary School gym. The annual town meeting date was reset to 6:30 p.m. Thursday, June 27 at the Hermon High School auditorium.

Also taking place later than usual is the special town meeting held to approve the school budget, which has been scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Monday, June 17, at the Hermon Middle School gym, according to an article in Hermon Connections, the town’s newsletter. The school budget validation referendum will take place on June 25, in conjunction with local elections.

According to the Maine Municipal Association, Hermon ranks No. 1 among the Maine cities and towns that stand to lose big under Gov. Paul LePage’s biennial budget plan, which among other things calls for shifting excise taxes paid by tractor-trailer owners from municipal to state coffers.

For Hermon the measure could mean the loss of $547,466 — an amount that represents a big chunk of the town’s $4.4 million municipal budget, Hermon Town Manager Roger Raymond said earlier this year.

That’s because the small Penobscot County town of about 5,400 people is home to several transportation companies, including Ryder Truck Rental and Leasing, Pottle’s Transportation Inc. and Dysart’s Transportation. To that end, tractor-trailer excise taxes comprise a disproportionately large part of the town’s revenue stream compared with most other communities.

Also looming are the governor’s proposals to suspend the state’s revenue sharing program, make communities pay half of their teachers’ retirement premiums and halt the Homestead Exemption program.

State legislators were still debating the budget measures as of this week, Raymond said Thursday.

As it stands, Hermon school officials are proposing a $12,122,724 gross budget for 2013-14, according to information provided by municipal officials. Although the proposed education budget is about $375,000 less than the current one, it will require $4,160,450 in local tax dollars — up $206,950, or 5.2 percent, from this year’s local burden.

Meanwhile, municipal officials have developed a $4,427,656 budget, which is up .53 percent largely because of the increase in the local portion of education costs and because the town’s county tax bill grew to $530,862, up $17,688, or about 3.5 percent, from the previous bill.

If the voters approve the education and municipal budgets as proposed — and if the state does come through with funding levels projected by local officials — the local property tax rate is projected to increase from the current $11.70 per $1,000 in property valuation to $12.21 per $1,000 in property valuation, according to town budget documents.

Raymond said that the municipal budget developed by town councilors does not take into consideration the governor’s budget plan, which threatens as much as $895,000 in municipal revenues.

“Should the governor prevail, the mill rate could increase by an additional two mills unless the council chooses to reduce services,” Raymond wrote in his budget message to residents. “Because of the significance of the potential losses, it is not possible to absorb all of them by reducing services.”

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