Dexter’s municipal budget could rise by 15 percent

Shelley Watson is the town manager in Dexter.
Gabor Degre | BDN
Shelley Watson is the town manager in Dexter. Buy Photo
Posted June 25, 2014, at 11:58 a.m.
Last modified June 25, 2014, at 4:34 p.m.

DEXTER, Maine — A combination of overdue infrastructure repairs and a $100,000 increase in the town’s share of the SAD 46 budget could hike Dexter’s expenditures in the new fiscal year by as much as 15 percent.

The town council is scheduled to hold a public hearing and vote on the budget at its Thursday, July 10, meeting.

Town Manager Shelley Watson said that the budget figures are unpleasant, but the increase is unavoidable. “We took a little more than $300,000 out of the undesignated revenue fund last year to balance the budget,” Watson said. “We just can’t do that again.”

Standard accounting practices recommend that municipalities keep at least three months’ worth of expenditures in the undesignated revenue account, commonly known as surplus in some locales. In Dexter’s case, that would be around $1 million.

The gross budget — which may be changed slightly before the public hearing — is $4.16 million, up from $3.6 million last year.

There are only a few recommended increases in department budgets and several decreases, the town manager said. “The department heads didn’t ask for very much this year,” she said. But Watson also noted that the town “has put capital projects on hold for far too long, which will catch up to us eventually.”

The flood damage that washed out two bridges in Dexter earlier this year also took its toll on the back wall of the Morrison Memorial Building, which houses the municipal offices.

“We found places where water seeped in for the first time,” she said. “Ideally, when fall comes and the water level in the lake is down, we can shut the dam down to make the repairs.” The old cast-iron sewer pipes in the basement also need to be replaced, Watson added.

The Culture and Recreation Account, which includes the Abbott Memorial Library, recreation department, museum and golf course, is up by 5.3 percent. While the library may use some of its reserve funds to fix the moisture problem in the basement, other expenses will have to come from tax revenues.

Watson’s report to the council lists several areas of concern in the town’s recreation facilities: the ice skating rink hut, the gazebo at Crosby Park — “floor is sagging and it appears some of the sills are rotted” — and crumbling and cracking sidewalks on Main Street.

Watson emphasized, however, that a 15 percent increase in the municipal budget doesn’t necessarily mean that tax bills will go up by the same amount. “We’re doing everything we can to minimize the effect on property owners,” she said.

Council Chairman Fred Banks agreed. “The mill rate will probably go up, but I don’t see tax bills increasing by 15 percent.”

Banks said that the bottom line is that “the town has to pay its bills. We’ve inherited problems from the past and we’ve had some unexpected expenses this year. There’s really not much we can do about it.”

A link to the detailed town budget, including expenses and anticipated revenue, is posted at http://dextermaine.org/.

 

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