Early North Yarmouth budget projects 8% spending increase

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NORTH YARMOUTH — An early draft of the town’s fiscal 2018 budget calls for a spending increase of 8 percent, Town Manager Rosemary Roy said in an interview Monday.

The Budget Committee and Board of Selectmen will tweak the numbers in the weeks to come, with final approval at Town Meeting April 8.

The current draft calls for a municipal budget of $2.9 million, an increase of about $242,000. That includes capital reserves, but not the school assessment. The town is still determining next year’s tax rate.

Spending increases for the 12-month period beginning July 1 include two new positions – a heavy equipment laborer in the Public Works Department, costing about $54,000 with benefits, and a part-time assistant for Roy, an expense of about $24,000.

Health insurance could increase 3.25 percent, or about $17,000. The town is looking into a different plan, Roy said.

North Yarmouth budgeted $225,000 for road maintenance in the current fiscal year, and could spend $243,000 next year.

Crack sealing is proposed for several town roads with pavement gaps. Costing about $20,000, the project would include Town Farm Road to the Gray town line, North Road from Route 231 to Route 9, Sligo Road from Route 9 to the Yarmouth line, Mountfort Road to the Yarmouth line, and Mill, Baston, Parsonage and Haskell roads.

Paving will be done on Parsonage, Doughty, Haskell, Mountfort, Baston and Cluff roads. Minor improvements will also be made to Pea and Meadowcreek lanes.

The town also looks to revive a senior property tax assistance program. The state abolished the Circuit Breaker program; Cumberland created its own version of the initiative last year, and North Yarmouth is looking to do the same.

North Yarmouth would draw $50,000 from the town’s undesignated fund balance of approximately $1.4 million to start the program.

“That senior tax break program, if the townspeople approve it (at April’s Town Meeting), will give … those who qualify a $1,000 break off their taxes,” Roy said.

Those eligible must have a total household income of $45,000 or less, be at least 70 years old, and have lived in town 10 years and in the current house for at least a year.

It is unknown how many people the program will address. Residents can learn more by calling Roy at 829-3705 or emailing manager@northyarmouth.org. The deadline to apply would be June 30.

A public hearing on the matter is scheduled for the Tuesday, March 7, Board of Selectmen meeting, which takes place at Town Hall at 7 p.m.

The town also looks to use up to $50,000, also from its undesignated fund balance, to pay out benefits for employees who have been unable to use them during the year; for instance, those who have not had a chance to take all their vacation days, or have resigned before doing so.

Some staff has accumulated as much as five weeks’ vacation a year, “and that’s really hard, in our business, to use, because you never know what the year’s going to bring, and many times it’s very difficult to take time off,” Roy said.

The town could spend $230,000 toward various capital reserves accounts.

“We’re not purchasing any really big items this (next) year; we’re building, we’re planning,” Roy said.

With no major purchases of vehicles or apparatus planned in fiscal 2018, funds could instead go toward town facility upgrades. Those include sprinkler systems in the public works and fire-rescue buildings, a public works generator, the rusting salt and sand shed, and a burglary alarm system expansion.

“This is the first year that we’ve actually set up a plan for our facilities,” Roy said, adding that about $50,000 a year would be put toward that initiative.

Another $130,000 could be put into the public works/fire-rescue heavy equipment reserve, as well as $10,000 and $5,000, respectively, into the Future Lands and Parks and Recreation reserves. Almost $26,000 would go toward the second phase of the town’s records preservation program.

The Board of Selectmen is due to review the Town Meeting warrant Tuesday, March 7, and sign the warrant two weeks later.

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

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.