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Proposed municipal budget raises Yarmouth taxes; school budget holds the line

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Proposed municipal budget raises Yarmouth taxes; school budget holds the line

YARMOUTH — The Town Council on March 18 unanimously accepted the School Board's fiscal 2011 budget with a zero percent increase from this year.

Councilors also received a preliminary municipal budget that would add 20 cents to the property tax rate.

School Board Chairman David Ray said the $19.5 million school budget is the most conservative in his memory.

"We have successfully balanced fiscal responsibility while providing quality education," he said.

He said the zero percent increase was possible in part because of a bargaining agreement with the teachers. He said the negotiations provided no increase in salaries for the first year, and an increase the following two years based on the cost of living. Salaries will be increased no less than 0.5 percent and no more than 2 percent the last two years.

The schools have also been directed to operate with a freeze on teacher improvement expenses, textbooks, equipment and supplies unless absolutely necessary. Ray said the reductions used to create a budget with no increases will not be sustainable for the long term, but was possible this year thanks to the work of Superintendent Judy Paolucci and other administrators.

"The austerity of our budget combined with the revenue problems we've had from the state are bringing us closer and closer to the point where we are doing things that may begin to erode our ability to maintain our quality," he said.

The first public hearing on the school budget will take place on Thursday, April 8, at 7 p.m. at the Log Cabin. The next hearing will be on Thursday, May 6, at 7 p.m. The budget referendum is scheduled for June 8.

In other business, Town Manager Nat Tupper presented a $10.5 million fiscal 2011 municipal budget to the council.

It includes a reduction in expenditures of $279,000, or 2.6 percent, from the current year. But the $30.9 million total budget would boost the property tax rate 20 cents, or 1.07 percent, to $19.73 per $1,000 of assessed value.

"Other than the dispatch issue, we are keeping all services in place," Tupper said. Consolidating Yarmouth's dispatch with Falmouth will save the town about $200,000, he said.

Tupper said even though property taxes are about $252,000 lower than this year, the tax rate will increase largely because of a $20 million reduction in valuation of Wyman Station.

"Although there is a smaller tax bill going out the door, it is divided among a smaller tax base," he said. "In addition, I am expecting only a small increase in construction projects this year, maybe about $3 million."

Finally, the council agreed to have Tupper and the town assessor develop language for a new three-year agreement with Wyman Station. By 2012-2013, Tupper said the value of the station will be $95 million, down from $123 million in 2010-2011.

"It is an older facility and its value is decreasing," Tupper said. "There is now a competitive, more energy-efficient marketplace."

The next council meeting will be Thursday, April 1, at 7 p.m. in the Log Cabin.

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or aanderson@theforecaster.net