Chebeague weighs reduced budget, higher taxes

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CHEBEAGUE ISLAND — Residents will vote on a budget of more than $3 million at Town Meeting on Saturday.

The proposed budget is down 2.2 percent, or almost $67,000, from the current year.

But if approved, the tax rate would increase $1.90, or 9 percent, to $22.80 per $1,000 of assessed value. Town Administrator Marjorie Stratton said the increase in the tax rate comes from a decision not to use undesignated and reserve funds.

A total of $205,000 from those funds was spent this year, and is not included in the fiscal 2016 spending plan.

The overall budget includes a 3 percent increase in spending for education. The $31,000 increase would bring the proposed education budget to more than $1.08 million.

The largest increase in the budget is for the Cemetery Committee, which is increasing by 125 percent, or $5,800. Stratton said this is because a couple on the island had been maintaining the cemetery for years, but they recently retired. The town is now planning on hiring someone to maintain the area.

Another increase comes from a 26.5 percent increase, or $50,000, for administrators and the Board of Selectmen. Legal services will be seeing an increase of 50 percent, or $4,000, which Stratton said is for “nothing specific.”

While the town will see a loss of revenue, there are also declining expenses.

A large decrease comes from the Planning Department, which is having its budget cut by $8,000, or 35.8 percent. Stratton said this is because the department had raised a lot of money for a project and funds were left over.

Another decrease is in debt service, which would decline by 58.5 percent, or $311,500. Stratton said the town has paid off a loan it owed to School Administrative District 51 (Cumberland-North Yarmouth), from when island students attended school there, rather than in Yarmouth.

A referendum question will also be discussed. Residents on June 9 will be asked to vote on whether the Board of Selectmen should continue discussing the proposed construction of a parking lot near the Stone Wharf.

The parking lot question is non-binding, and will be used to guide the board.

The Town Meeting will be held June 6 at 9 a.m. at the Chebeague Island Hall Community Center.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.