HERMON, Maine — Residents approved a $4.4 million budget for municipal operations in the coming fiscal year Thursday during a sparsely attended annual town meeting.
Voters made quick work of this year’s budget approval process, approving all of the 18 warrant articles placed before them in less than half an hour.
Thursday’s meeting — as well as the school budget votes and local elections — took place later than usual. That’s because town officials decided to delay their annual business until they had a better handle on how much the town could expect in
state funding from several key programs.
According to the Maine Municipal Association, Hermon ranked No. 1 among the Maine cities and towns that stood to lose big under Gov. Paul LePage‘s biennial budget plan, which among other things called for shifting excise taxes paid by tractor-trailer owners from municipal to state coffers.
For Hermon the measure could have meant the loss of $547,466 — an amount that represents a big chunk of the town’s $4.4 million municipal budget, Hermon Town Manager Roger Raymond said earlier this year.
Because Hermon is home to several transportation companies, including Ryder Truck Rental and Leasing, Pottle’s Transportation Inc. and Dysart’s Transportation, tractor-trailer excise taxes make up a disproportionately large part of the town’s revenue stream compared with most other communities.
The governor also proposed suspending the state’s revenue sharing program, making communities pay half of their teachers’ retirement premiums and halting the Homestead Exemption program.
Raymond said that the municipal budget developed by town councilors did not take into account the potential loss of as much as $895,000 in municipal revenues the town faced under the governor’s version of the budget.
In the end, the governor’s budget did not pass. Instead, the Maine Legislature approved a compromise budget, which the governor vetoed. On Wednesday, lawmakers voted to override the veto, putting the compromise budget back into play.
Hermon’s newly adopted municipal budget totals $4,427,656, up .53 percent from this year’s largely because of the increase in the local portion of education costs and because the town’s county tax bill grew to $530,862, up $17,688, or about 3.5 percent, from the previous bill.
Hermon voters earlier this month approved a $12,122,724 gross budget for 2013-14. Although the education budget is about $375,000 less than the current one, it will require $4,160,450 in local tax dollars — up $206,950, or 5.2 percent, from this year’s local burden.
Raymond said earlier that if voters approve the education and municipal budgets as proposed — and if the state does come through with funding levels projected by local officials — the local property tax rate could increase from the current $11.70 per $1,000 in property valuation to $12.21 per $1,000 in property valuation, according to town budget documents.
Had the governor prevailed, Raymond said, the town would have had to decide if it would increase the property tax rate by an additional two mills or significantly reduce services.