Cumberland trims budget growth; tax hike at 3.8%

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CUMBERLAND — The town is proposing a $9.8 million municipal budget for the next fiscal year – an increase of almost $41,000, or 0.42 percent, over current spending.

The Town Council will vote on the budget following a 7 p.m. public hearing at its meeting on Monday, May 22, at Town Hall.

Adding assessments from Cumberland County and School Administrative District 51, Cumberland’s total tax revenues could rise 3.8 percent to $25.1 million – increasing its current tax rate of $18.25 per $1,000 of property valuation by 70 cents.

The 3.8 percent hike would add $245 to the tax bill for a home valued at $350,000, bringing total taxes for the year to more than $6,600.

Of the 70-cent tax rate increase, 64 cents goes toward SAD 51, and 3 cents each toward town and county costs, Town Manager Bill Shane said in an interview Tuesday.

Without an approximately $34 million growth in town value generating about $651,000 in new revenue to offset the tax hike, the tax rate would have increased $1.17, as opposed to 70 cents, Shane noted.

Final tax numbers will not be known until the town sets its tax commitment in July.

Cumberland has pared its town budget significantly from its February draft, which projected a 4.8 percent increase, resulting in an $11 million spending plan. Recognizing the impact of school expenses – due largely to a potential state subsidy loss of nearly $896,000 – the town looked to minimize its own expenses, Shane said.

“The Finance Committee … directed myself and the finance director to come up with a strategy for the next five years to minimize the impact on the town side to get it to as close to zero as we can,” Shane said, noting that as a result, some major capital projects funded through tax increment financing monies are to be delayed.

Water line connections and extensions, as well as relocation of the town garage are among those projects, although “maintenance will still occur; we’ll still be good stewards of the infrastructure we have,” he said.

The town could save about $600,000 a year through the delays, according to Shane.

“Those will be delayed for at least five years, until we can get out of this uncertainty with school funding,” Shane said. “I’m a little discouraged that we had to go that route, because when you delay capital projects, sometimes the costs will go up … but we really don’t have a choice.”

Existing services and staffing remain in place, the manager 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.