Cumberland may ask North Yarmouth to share more costs

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CUMBERLAND — North Yarmouth currently pays a portion of Cumberland’s recreation and library budgets, and next year it may also be asked to help fund the parks budget.

Town Manager Bill Shane said at Monday’s Town Council meeting that a parks budget was developed in fiscal 2005. That budget includes maintenance of several fields, including those at Twin Brook Recreation Area, as well as the library, Little League and Town Hall grounds, resources used by both communities.

“We’ve been talking about this since 2003; it just never got any traction,” Shane said. “And we’re to a point now where we really have to ask for the help.”

North Yarmouth pays 36 percent of recreation and library costs, a percentage derived from the town’s population compared to Cumberland’s, plus administration expenses. Its preliminary fiscal 2012 assessment for recreation is 36 percent of the net cost of nearly $164,000, or nearly $59,000. Its library assessment is 36 percent of about $373,000, or about $134,000.

But North Yarmouth’s assessment for parks would be smaller. Cumberland would divide the approximately $184,000 assessment in half and then charge North Yarmouth 36 percent of that amount, or about $33,000. Cumberland would also phase in that cost to North Yarmouth over three years, staring with almost $11,000 in fiscal 2012.

North Yarmouth’s total fiscal 2012 assessment would be about $204,000, an 8.17 percent increase over its fiscal 2011 assessment of nearly $189,000.

The Town Council is due to approve its budget next spring, followed in early June by North Yarmouth at its Town Meeting. Since North Yarmouth’s residents could opt not to pay for the services, Shane said he will present the council with two fiscal 2012 budgets: one with North Yarmouth contributing to Cumberland’s budget, and one without the contribution.

Shane said North Yarmouth has asked to be charged a use fee instead of the percentage assessment. But he said the cost per user would be prohibitively high.

He said the contributions of both towns create a beneficial economy of scale.

Concerning the current fiscal year’s budget, the Town Council voted unanimously Monday to support a retroactive agreement between Shane and North Yarmouth Board of Selectmen Chairman Robert Wood, which states exactly what North Yarmouth is paying Cumberland for fiscal 2011, which ends next June 30.

Although North Yarmouth budgeted what it owes Cumberland this spring, it has yet to pay that amount. With completion of the agreement, Shane said he expects Cumberland to receive that money in the coming weeks.

Shane called the agreement a housekeeping issue. Councilor Bill Stiles said the agreement just put on paper what the two towns already agreed to.

“If this is something that North Yarmouth wants … then we should do it,” said Councilor Jeff Porter. “If it makes them feel more comfortable, it’s the least we could do to try to send good faith.”

Wood called the agreement “an auditing thing. It’s $180,000, and we should have a backup, to kind of explain why we’re spending that money.”

He noted that the two towns have been partners for years, and that there is efficiency and synergy in their work together.

“We share (School Administrative District) 51,” Wood said. “We’ve supported the library and recreation for as long as I can remember going to Town Meeting, which is probably 18 years. It always comes up at Town Meeting, but we’ve always voted it through.”

Wood said a public hearing would be held in North Yarmouth within the next month to get input on whether its residents want to pay the additional costs.

“The last time we surveyed our population on the beliefs in these areas was 12 years ago, and we want to take a dipstick and see what people are thinking about,” he said.

In other business, with David Bateman of Portland-based Bateman Partners unable to attend Monday’s meeting, the Town Council tabled discussion of his proposed Drowne Road revitalization project until Monday, Jan. 3, 2011.

Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 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.