Cumberland council approves $8M municipal budget

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CUMBERLAND — The Town Council on Monday unanimously approved a fiscal 2012 municipal budget that is slightly smaller than the current spending plan.

Next year’s nearly $8 million budget is down about $22,000, or 0.27 percent. Revenues are expected to total $3.6 million, so the amount to be paid in taxes will be $4.4 million, about $8,000 below this year.

School costs are not included, and Town Manager Bill Shane said the municipal side is only about a quarter of the total tax bill.

“We feel we have a responsible budget to present to you this evening that’s consistent with the economic times we’re in,” Shane told the Town Council. “It doesn’t really allow for any new programs, any new hirings, really any expansion of much-needed infrastructure work, particularly paving in our community.

“Things of that nature are kind of put on hold again, but (there are) not a lot of choices,” he said. “People are worried about how they’re going to pay their mortgage, how they’re going to pay their bills.”

Next year’s budget includes a reduction in trash contracts and tonnage to ecomaine, as well as health-care cost increases, a 5 percent rise in insurance costs and 10 percent climb in utility expenses, and 2 percent wage adjustments. There is also a loss of about $274,000 in projected state revenue sharing for fiscal 2012.

Gravel pit governance

The Town Council also approved the extension to June 28 of a moratorium on new applications for gravel pits and water extraction sites. Last November it enacted a 180-day moratorium on such projects.

The council sent proposed ordinance changes for gravel and water extraction to the Planning Board last month, and the language will later return to the council for a decision.

Meanwhile, a petition to send alternate gravel extraction ordinance language to the June 14 referendum is being circulated. If the referendum is approved, that language would take precedence over the language being reviewed by the Planning Board and council.

The Planning Board will in part review a Town Council ordinance subcommittee proposal that the town continue to allow gravel extraction as it is now permitted, but only through contract zoning.

But the petition, spearheaded by a citizen’s group called Cumberland Environmental Action Network, calls for a gravel extraction ban in Cumberland’s two Rural Residential zones.

Shane said the Planning Board’s recommendations may be ready for Town Council action by late May. Extending the moratorium allows the council to wait until the referendum is decided.

If the referendum fails, the council could adopt the new zoning language recommended by the Planning Board on June 27, one day before the moratorium expires. If the referendum passes, its proposed language will take effect June 14, Shane said.

Petitions with 590 signatures must be returned to Town Hall before April 11.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.