HAMPDEN, Maine — The proposed budget for the fiscal year ahead is the topic of a public hearing for the Town Council’s meeting Monday night.
Also during the meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. in the council chambers, councilors will conduct a public hearing regarding a proposal to eliminate Saturday Community Connector bus runs in Hampden.
Over the past several months, town officials have developed a $6.9 million budget for municipal operations in the new fiscal year, which begins July 1. The municipal budget will be offset by a projected $3.1 million in revenue, according to a final draft available on the town’s website.
Town Manager Susan Lessard said the proposed $6,938,120 budget plan reflects a reduction in staff, the elimination of Saturday public bus service and a 1.6 percent cost of living increase for all full-time employees.
If the budget is adopted as it stands, the transfer station staff would decrease by half a position, and the building and grounds crew would lose one seasonal employee. In addition, the public works staff would decrease by one person and the town planner’s position would be reduced to 28 hours a week, effective Jan. 1.
Lessard said the public works position would be eliminated through a retirement, and the planner’s hours are being cut to reflect a reduced workload. Hampden’s switch to zero-sort recycling allowed for the staff reduction at the transfer station.
The elimination of the Community Connector’s Saturday runs in Hampden is aimed at saving about $28,000, Lessard said.
The municipal budget, along with Hampden’s $5.9 million share of the RSU 22 school budget and this year’s nearly $752,000 county tax bill, will result in a property tax increase. Lessard currently is projecting the rate will increase from the current $16.65 per $1,000 in property valuation to about $17.41 per $1,000.
Lessard said this proved to be another difficult budget development season. Despite rising education costs and shrinking state revenue checks, town councilors have been able to find ways to maintain the level and quality of services that residents have come to expect.
“They used a surgical instead of a chainsaw approach [to budget cuts],” she said.
Despite rising costs, the total municipal budget is actually $85,000 less than five years ago, Lessard said, “but the town has worked hard to strategically look at how it does what it does.”
Also helping to keep the tax rate from spiraling out of control are the town’s volunteers, whose work benefits such community resources as the swimming pool and library.
“Their efforts save the town a huge amount of money,” she said.