Cumberland council OKs $10.5M budget, appoints interim police chief

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CUMBERLAND — The Town Council on Monday unanimously approved a $10.5 million budget for next year.

The panel also appointed Lt. Milton Calder to serve as interim police chief while the town searches for a permanent replacement for Chief Joe Charron, who is retiring.

The fiscal year 2017 spending plan, which includes a 3.7 percent Cumberland County tax increase, reflects a 1.5 percent rise over the current year. With an offset of $4.5 million in non-property tax revenues, 12 cents would be added to the town’s current tax rate of $18.50 per $1,000 of property valuation.

Taking largely into account Cumberland’s preliminary assessment to School Administrative District 51 of $16.3 million, up 4.52 percent, total taxes to be raised would be $23.9 million.

As a result, Cumberland’s tax rate for next year could be $18.50 per $1,000 of property valuation, an increase of 2.2 percent.

Budget information is available on the town’s Finance Department page at cumberlandmaine.com.

Councilor Tom Gruber, chairman of the town’s Finance Committee, praised the spending plan, which he said “is the best budget that we can come up with. … We’ve scrubbed this thing time and time again, and I’m sure there’s always something we can consider in the future, but I’m feeling very comfortable this year to make this recommendation.”

Karen Campbell, a Cumberland resident who serves on the SAD 51 Board of Directors, noted the different schedules in the town and school budget processes. While Cumberland has wrapped up its process, SAD 51 only just rolled out its proposed spending plan March 24.

“What I struggled with, with this budget, is just the timing,” Campbell explained. “Because you’re at the end of your budget process when the School Board is at the beginning of their budget process. And we’re dealing, really, with the same pool of taxpayer monies and taxpayer revenues.”

She asked for “dovetailing” the two processes in the future.

“I think Karen’s point is well taken,” Councilor George Turner said. “And it’s been this way for years and years; this diverse timing issue has been a problem for years, and it’s never really been addressed.”

Town Manager Bill Shane – who Campbell credited with doing “a great job” staying in touch with SAD 51 Superintendent Jeff Porter and Finance Director Scott Poulin during the process – said the town’s budget process has run at the same time for the past 13 years.

“We start it early so we can get more information out,” he said. “We can get information back and forth with the department heads.”

Shane noted that SAD 51 “has a lot more hoops” to go through than the town, such as the June budget validation referendum.

Interim chief

With Charron retiring after 34 years with Cumberland, the Town Council appointed Calder to serve as interim chief starting Friday, April 1.

The town has hired Bob Swartz, executive director of the Maine Police Chiefs Association, to lead the search for a new permanent chief, according to Shane. The town had received 12 applications as of Monday’s deadline, and Shane said he expects the new chief to be on the job in June or July.

Council Chairman Peter Bingham praised the selection of Calder, who is also the town’s harbor master.

“This couldn’t happen to a better person, and also somebody who has grown up in this community, and that’s what we really like to see,” Bingham said.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

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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.