Veazie draft budget shows ‘slight increase’ despite eliminating public works

Posted May 15, 2014, at 1:56 p.m.

VEAZIE, Maine — Savings from disbanding public works and deep cuts for recreation and administration offset increases for the fire department and capital accounts to create a proposed 2014-15 budget that is about $100,000 higher than this year, according to Town Manager Mark Leonard.

“We’re hoping not to have an increase [in the property tax rate],” he said Thursday. “That is what the council directed.”

The draft municipal budget for the coming year is about $1.9 million, and the school department is asking for about $2.7 million from residents to pay for education, Leonard said of the $4.6 million combined budget.

“The bottom line is that there is a slight increase in the budget,” according to the budget committee recommendations posted on the town’s website.

The draft numbers are not finalized because of pending property tax data from the Veazie Dam that was removed last year as part of the Penobscot River Restoration Project, Leonard said. The financial data is expected by the end of the week.

The Town Council will meet 6:30 p.m. May 19 to solidify the numbers that will go before residents at the annual town meeting, 8 p.m. June 10 at the Veazie Community School.

Without the dam figures, the town is looking at an increase of about $106,000, the town manager said.

“That may change depending on what the dam [property is valued at],” Leonard said. “I would say that would go down.”

The town’s property tax rate for this year is $17.50 per $1,000 in assessed property, which is actually a decrease of $3 from the year prior.

“It was a bid decrease, but we had a huge reduction in services,” Leonard said.

The other big change in the budget is funding the capital account, used for road maintenance and other town expenses, which was not funded last year, he said.

“We added $150,000 [to the capital account], and we cut elsewhere to make up for that to come in at $106,000,” Leonard said of the overall proposed budget increase.

The town saved money by disbanding the public works department, a savings of $72,600; reducing recreation to $54,553, a decrease of $13,344 or 19.7 percent; and decreasing the executive department’s budget to $278,976, a drop of $24,442 or 8 percent.

Proposed increases also include adding $75,000 to the fixed costs line, increasing it to $419,249, a jump of 21.2 percent; and adding $26,923 or 15.7 percent to the fire department’s operating budget of $171,567, increasing the draft budget line to $198,490.

Earlier this year, the council directed Leonard to instruct the Veazie School Committee to limit the school budget to $4.26 million for fiscal year 2014-15, and the draft budget does just that.

The Veazie School Department is not going to operate the pre-K program in the coming year as a way to save money, the committee’s report states.

“In summary, the budget committee recommends to the Town Council to accept the bottom line budget prepared by the principal and superintendent with the approval of the school committee for a total of $4,265,505.63, which is a small decrease of $3,041.43 [0.07 percent],” the town website states.

The town has been asked to pay $2,724,264 to operate the school department, Leonard said.

Local elections also will take place June 10, with voting booths open 8 a.m.-8 p.m., and the annual town meeting starting when the polls close.

There are four open seats and only two people running to fill them. Town Council incumbent Tammy Perry is running alone for two available seats, no one is running for the vacant school board post, and Robert Tomilson is running for a seat on the sewer district trustees.

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