North Yarmouth questions cost sharing; Cumberland fears 'civil war'
CUMBERLAND — Adding to already high tension surrounding Cumberland's municipal budget, North Yarmouth officials have suggested that their town may not support continued cost sharing of library and recreation services.
Though the North Yarmouth Board of Selectmen has not yet formally discussed the issue and members were hesitant to comment, Chairman Paul Napolitano brought up the cost-sharing matter at a recent joint meeting with representatives from both towns and School Administrative District 51.
The issue of sharing library costs, he said, came up at last year's Town Meeting, when one resident suggested he would rather go to another town's library and wasn't excited about spending tax dollars for Cumberland's services.
At the joint meeting last month, Napolitano said he asked if there was any way to lower what his town pays for library and recreation services, because he felt his town might be paying too much.
The suggestion roused some Cumberland councilors, including Jeff Porter, who felt the opposite is true.
In response to the inquiry into reducing North Yarmouth contributions to Cumberland programs or switching to a pay-per-use fee, Cumberland prepared a document explaining current charges to North Yarmouth for recreation, library and community police services. The document also details Cumberland spending on each service as well as capital expenses and maintenance costs from which North Yarmouth has been exempt.
According to the document, North Yarmouth is asked annually to pay about 36 percent of the library and recreation budgets, as well as $1,900 for community policing, formerly called DARE.
In 2009, North Yarmouth paid $193,000 for those services; those programs netted a total cost of $535,000 for the two towns.
As part of Cumberland's proposed 2010 budget, North Yarmouth is being asked to pay 0.34 percent more, or an increase of about $650.
Not charged to North Yarmouth, according to the document, are millions of dollars in costs over the last decade related to Twin Brook's purchase and development, maintenance of parks, technology for Channel 2, which broadcasts selectmen meetings and community announcements, the regional paramedic program (which is proposed to end in July), and North Yarmouth's unequal use of the community policing program, which last year worked with 27 probationary students in SAD 51, 20 of whom were from North Yarmouth.
The document also suggests that "if (North Yarmouth wishes) to pursue a 'pay per play' like fee for library and recreation, the entire debate related to the cost sharing of (SAD 51) will be rehashed and it typically has not been a healthy or constructive conversation."
From the 1992-1993 school year through the 2004-2005 year, Cumberland paid $98.28 million to SAD 51, based on property valuation, rather than per pupil. If the charge had been per pupil, the letter said, North Yarmouth would have paid $7.75 million of that amount, in addition to what it already contributed.
Napolitano would not comment this week on North Yarmouth's stance on the issue, aside from saying that it has been brought up and will be discussed as part of budget talks, which are continuing through next month.
Napolitano did add that the matter must go before Town Meeting, and said he thinks continuing shared services will probably be OK'd by voters.
Despite that prediction, Cumberland officials remains on edge – after all, they stand to lose $200,000 in an already tight fiscal year.
Town Manager Bill Shane said last week that he "hopes for a resolution to maintain shared services," but also that he's "disappointed" that his northern neighbors are "at a point where they're not willing to support" the town governments' relationship.
Shane said he's hoping to avoid a "civil war" between the two towns, "but I'm nervous that the spirit of cooperation may end this year."