Chebeague voters OK $2.9M budget

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CHEBEAGUE ISLAND — Voters authorized a budget of $2.9 million Saturday at Town Meeting, a net increase of 2.7 percent to taxpayers.

All articles passed as written on the warrant, but several voters voiced concern about two budgets that support one town employee.

The proposed fiscal 2014 budget represents a 0.5 percent increase over this year’s spending, but will have a higher tax impact, if approved, due to falling revenues, Town Administrator Eric Dyer said.

The net increase to taxpayers is about $78,000, or a 2.7 percent increase. The mil rate will increase to an estimated 55 cents, from $20.20 to $20.75 per $1,000 of assessed value, which translates to an additional $96 per year for a typical Chebeague Island home valued at $175,000.

Increases in town services are moderate. The bulk of tax increases are due in part to reductions at the state level, along with less revenue being applied from the town’s undesignated fund, Dyer said.

A final tax amount won’t be known until later this month when the state releases its revenue-sharing numbers.

Two articles generated lengthy debate at the meeting, Dyer said. Those articles cover the salary for the harbormaster/shellfish warden and code enforcement positions, which are staffed by a single person. Some voters felt the overtime pay was excessive.

“Because it’s a combined position, there are sometimes overtime hours in the summer,” Dyer said. “We only have one person performing those jobs, but he’s performing them well. So we’ve opted to not split those out at this point.”

Also within the harbormaster budget is a proposal to purchase and install two rental moorings near Stone Wharf, an issue that generated nearly 45 minutes of discussion within a three-and-a-half-hour meeting.

“It was a small cost, but it came down to an issue of principle for a lot of people. A lot of people don’t like the fact that we’re adding moorings when there are other businesses on the island that could provide a similar service,” Dyer said.

Some voters were also concerned about potential liability issues, but the moorings are necessary, because the harbormaster has no other place to move boats that are illegally docked at town floats, Dyer said.

A proposed amendment to reduce the harbormaster budget to $33,000 from $36,610 was narrowly defeated, 36-35. Ultimately, voters unanimously passed the article as written, said Town Clerk Michelle Jackson.

The Saturday morning meeting drew 92 registered voters, plus many non-resident Chebeague Island taxpayers who joined the meeting as observers, according to Jackson. Nearly all year-round residents on the island are registered to vote – 338 out of about 350.

“We have a very active population of voters,” Jackson said.

Ben McCanna can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or Follow him on Twitter: @BenMcCanna.