Hampden municipal budget headed to public hearing

Posted June 13, 2013, at 10:48 p.m.

HAMPDEN, Maine — Residents will have an opportunity to weigh in on a proposed $6.8 million town operating budget during a public hearing Monday night at the municipal building.

The hearing will take place during a Town Council meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. on Monday. It is the budget’s last stop before it goes before the Town Council for adoption, which is expected to occur on Monday, June 24.

Town officials have developed a $6,844,149 spending plan that is $282,000 — or 4 percent — lower than this year’s budget, Town Manager Susan Lessard said Thursday. The budget will be offset by a projected $3,226,750 in revenue, according to a public notice posted on the town’s website.

Although the proposed budget maintains the current level of services and staffing, it reflects flat funding or reductions in virtually every budget line, she said.

The budget cuts were prompted, in large part, by Gov. Paul LePage’s biennial budget plan, which calls for deep cuts to — and in some cases the temporary suspension of — such programs as state revenue sharing and the homestead and circuit breaker property tax exemptions, Lessard said.

State lawmakers were still debating the budget as of late Thursday, putting local officials throughout Maine in a budget development bind.

Hampden officials are taking measures to reduce operating costs, including not giving pay raises to nonunion employees, slashing the annual paving budget in half and changing the police department’s vehicle replacement program from every year to every two years, she said.

Despite all the cuts, Lessard is projecting an increase in the town’s property tax rate, which has stood at $15.90 per $1,000 in property valuation for the last six years.

That’s because the town’s local share of the $28.3 million school budget voters approved for SAD 22 requires $5.68 million in local tax dollars, an increase of 6.6 percent from this year, and the county tax bill for the fiscal year ahead amounted to $731,537, up 5.2 percent from this year.

Based on that, Lessard projected a tax rate increase of 50 cents per $1,000 in property valuation.

In a May 13 budget overview for town councilors, Lessard noted that other budget reduction measures include having police and fire department personnel clean their portion of the municipal building and change the way those departments schedule vacations, sick time and holiday coverage to reflect actual usage over the past five years.

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