Cumberland hopes to shave budget before council vote

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CUMBERLAND — Town officials hope to trim next year’s proposed budget by about $120,000 before the spending plan goes to a vote Monday, April 9.

The town is faced with a potential tax rate increase of $1.15 per $1,000 of property valuation – a 6.1 percent hike that would add $402.50 to the tax bill of a home worth $350,000. An assessment for School Administrative District 51 is responsible for $1 of that addition, while a Cumberland County tax makes up 5 cents, and municipal expenditures 10 cents.

The tax rate is currently $18.80, so a $350,000 homeowner paid $6,580 in fiscal  year 2018.

Town Manager Bill Shane on March 28 said he hopes to shave 15 cents off that increase, reducing it to $1, or a 5.3 percent bump. That means taking another look at expenses, and determining if more can be expected from fiscal year 2019 revenues.

While Shane said he hopes school need might decline, the outlook from SAD 51 Superintendent Jeff Porter has not made him optimistic. Porter reported on March 26 that he does not expect to receive more state aid to education, which is slated to decline $442,000 from the current year (from $11.3 million to $10.9 million), and has declined by more than $1 million in the past three years.

SAD 51 accounted for 69 percent of taxpayer bills this year, while the Cumberland County assessment encompassed 3 percent.

Town spending is projected to increase 3.69 percent (about $378,000), to reach $10.3 million. Wages and salaries – the largest spending category, which comprise about 40 percent of the total municipal budget – are due to increase 6.13 percent, raising that total spending line to $4.1 million.

Budgeted town revenues are due to increase 5.07 percent, from $4.8 million to $5 million next year, helping to significantly offset municipal expenses. The town budgeted in fiscal year 2018 for less excise tax revenue than it actually received, hence a planned increase next year, from $1.65 million to $1.9 million.

The town is looking into “squeezing more out of the revenues, and seeing if there are other ways we can reduce expenses in some other areas,” Shane said. “That’s still a work in progress between now and April 9.”

Excise taxes will be reviewed further, as will potential extra revenue from new buildings and renovations, to find ways to reduce the tax impact, he explained.

A public hearing on the budget will precede the Town Council vote. The April 9 meeting takes place at Town Hall, 290 Tuttle Road, at 7 p.m.

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.