Early Topsham municipal budget shows 3.4% hike

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TOPSHAM — Next year’s municipal budget could increase 3.38 percent, or nearly $305,000, according to preliminary numbers.

The $9.3 million budget – which does not include county and school assessments, and is subject to change as the town hones the spending plan – will be decided at Town Meeting Wednesday, May 18.

Because there are only 52 pay periods in 2017, versus 53 in the current fiscal year, many of the departments show budget decreases, Town Manager Rich Roedner said in a March 10 interview.

“That started us lower all across the board” in beginning the budget-crafting process, he said.

The assessing budget is up nearly 30 percent, or $32,400, due largely to the addition of a half-time employee to assist both the assessor and the finance office. Both are single-person departments.

The added help would in part allow the assessor time to visit every property every four years, so the town would have more up-to-date real estate values, Roedner said, adding, “His goal is fairness in valuation … to make sure that the values are accurate so that people are paying the taxes they’re supposed to be paying.”

The elections line item shows an increase of about 26 percent, or about $14,000, reflecting extra costs going into this year’s presidential election.

Insurance is down 15 percent, or nearly $17,000.

“We don’t know what our insurance costs are (in advance of budget planning), so we tend to estimate,” Roedner said, noting that the town had over-budgeted this fiscal year.

The solid waste/recycling line item is up nearly 14 percent, or about $392,000, due to a new solid waste contract, reflecting higher disposal costs going into effect.

Library costs are up 15 percent, or nearly $71,000, due to salary increases that bring library employees more in line with town staff.

With assessments to Sagadahoc County and School Administrative District 75 still up in the air, Topsham’s tax rate for next year has yet to be determined.

The Board of Selectmen and Finance Committee are scheduled to review the budget jointly Wednesday, March 16. The selectmen will then hold a public meeting on the Town Meeting warrant and budget Thursday, April 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.