Early Cumberland budget proposes 10.6% hike

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CUMBERLAND — A draft of the town’s fiscal 2016 general fund budget shows a 10.6 percent increase over current spending.

Much of the hike is due to changes in the way the town accounts for programs it already funds.

The preliminary $10.4 million budget for next year is still under review by the Finance Committee; it may be voted on by the Town Council in April. It includes an operating budget of $8.9 million, up 1.4 percent, and an approximately $747,000 Cumberland County tax, a hike of 0.5 percent.

The School Administrative District 51 tax is not yet included in the general fund budget.

The shifting into Cumberland’s general fund of two existing programs, which the town already funds and which are offset significantly by revenues, would increase that fund’s budget by 8.7 percent, according to Finance Director Heather Perreault. Adult education, budgeted at about $60,000, comprises 0.6 percent of that increase, while funding for the Val Halla Golf & Recreation Center, budgeted at about $761,000, makes up for the remaining 8.1 percent of that hike.

Adult education had been run jointly with SAD 51 out of a special revenue fund, but “because the school district can no longer get the state funding for it, they’ve stopped doing it, so we’ve taken it over completely,” Perreault said.

As a result, the expense budget shows a gain, but offsetting revenues are also up, Perreault said. Adult education is contained in the town’s recreation budget, contributing to that department’s 21.3 percent increase.

The budget spike to the general fund caused by the addition of Val Halla – previously paid for in an enterprise fund – is also offset by revenues, but not completely, Perreault said. Because the center has not been entirely able to maintain itself through memberships and greens fees, the town’s auditor and bond rating agencies are among those recommending it be moved into the general fund.

“The town has been supporting it all along,” Perreault said. “We’re just changing the way we account for it.”

Taking into account revenues, Val Halla would add a net expense of about $100,000 to the general fund, she said, noting that “every year we’ve been making transfers from the general fund to Val Halla, to make up that difference.”

With paving put on hold last year as natural gas lines were installed, this year should see double the work. Roads off Main Street, between Tuttle and Greely roads, are due to be paved, and $700,000 is being budgeted.

A Town Council budget workshop will be held at Town Hall at 8 a.m. Saturday, March 14.

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.