May 24, 2018
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Newport freezes spending as revenues decline

By Sharon Kiley Mack, BDN Staff

NEWPORT, Maine — As revenues dry up, excise taxes slow to a trickle and school budgets appear headed for an increase, Newport is just like many other Maine communities: hurting financially.

“It’s a horrible situation,” Town Manager James Ricker told the Board of Selectmen on Wednesday night.

Ricker said the town took in $464,000 in excise taxes by this point last year. “We are $53,000 off that mark,” he said. If the trend continues, that revenue stream could be $75,000 to $100,000 short by the close of the year.

Ricker said people are not registering high-end new cars, boats and other vehicles. “They’re holding on to what they have in this economy,” he said.

In addition, the town could lose up to $60,000 in state revenue sharing.

For the rest of the year, Ricker said, no excess purchases will be made. “I’ll be very cautious for the rest of the year,” he said. “If we don’t need it, we’re not going to buy it.”

Ricker said the town authorized taking only $75,000 from surplus funds to help balance the books and that won’t be enough.

“The state can brag they’ve cut and balanced their budget, but they’ll do it on your back,” Ricker said. “The municipalities will all lose money.”

Ricker warned, “We may be making some tough decisions come fall.”

More bad news came with the announcement that True Textiles, a division of Guilford of Maine, is closing its Newport plant on Railroad Avenue by June or July. Ricker said the company plans to offer all its employees jobs at its other facilities in Guilford.

Ricker said the factory will be offered for sale and noted, “There is a real opportunity to make some nice condos there, down on the river,” he said.

“I’d hate for the town to be sitting on another empty factory like the old Hood’s building,” said Selectman Rick Clark.

In other business, the selectmen gave their nod of approval to a gift of 75 acres on Route 2. Newport Industrial Fabrication is offering the land to mitigate its development of another section of property for its business expansion.

Ricker told the board that the land gift would be contingent on the approval of the project by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the Army Corps of Engineers.

The land is located on Route 2, just west of the existing NIF complex.

Ricker said the land would be deeded for conservation use only and no motorized vehicles would be allowed on the property. He is checking with the DEP to see whether walking paths can be created and whether the land can be used by Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and other educational groups.

“The town owns very little recreational land, public land now,” he said. “I’ll fight for that for you.”

Ricker said the town would lose about $877 in yearly taxes by accepting the land, but would gain $3,000 to $4,000 in taxes from the NIF expansion. He said final approval of the land gift would have to come at a town meeting.

The board also approved a new fee schedule for the transfer station. Copies are available at the station and the Newport Town Office. A new fee schedule for Plymouth residents who use the facility was also approved and must now be approved by the Plymouth selectmen.

Transfer Station Manager Adam Noyes reported to the board that he is saving tonnage because bagged leaves are now being picked up by two people for compost. He said a cord of firewood that had been confiscated by the police when it was discovered to be cut illegally on town property is being sold to nearby campgrounds.

Noyes also said two truckloads of school textbooks are being offered free to home-schoolers or other groups.

He also announced that the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has agreed to stock a 6-acre pond behind the transfer station with trout. Noyes said the town would offer free fishing to children 16 and under.

Ricker praised Noyes for his “outside-the-box” thinking.

The board also approved 28 victualers licenses renewals and a liquor license renewal for Anglers, Inc.

The board’s next meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 13.


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