Election 2016: Falmouth voters weigh Route 100 project, school budget

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FALMOUTH — Voters will be asked three referendum questions when they go to the polls June 14, two related to school spending and one to approve improvements to the Route 100 corridor.

Question 1 on the ballot would OK spending up to $10.5 million to rebuild Route 100 in West Falmouth.

Up to $4 million will come from the Maine Department of Transportation, because Route 100 is a state-owned road. The town would borrow no more than $6 million and the remainder would be paid for with a portion of current and projected fund balances in the West Falmouth Crossing Tax Increment Financing District, which has been extended five years.

Total estimated debt service on the bond is nearly $7.2 million.

Components of the redevelopment project include intersection improvements, adding bicycle lanes from the Portland city line to Libby Bridge, rebuilding the road from Leighton Road to Libby Bridge, adding stretches of continuous sidewalks, and improving street lighting.

The council accepted preliminary plan recommendations from the Route 100 Committee on Feb. 8.

Theo Holtwijk, the town’s director of long range planning and development, said if the referendum passes it will probably take a year to complete final cost estimates and obtain rights of way. The project would likely go out to bid in summer 2017, with construction likely beginning that fall and wrapping up in fall 2018.

The original plan was expected to cost in the $10 million range. But estimated costs ballooned to $15.4 million, largely due to reconstruction needed on Leighton Road to Libby Bridge and Mountain Road, as well as from Winslow Farm to Hurricane Road.

The Route 100 Committee ultimately decided to pursue a smaller project, which will not include the stretch from Winslow Farm north to Hurricane Road. The town could go back to the MDOT in the future about redeveloping that section.

School budget

Question 2 will ask voters to approve the nearly $35 million school budget for fiscal 2017, an increase $1.75 million, or 5.3 percent, over the current budget.

If passed, the school portion of the property tax rate would increase 3.5 percent to $11.41 per $1,000 of assessed value, compared with $10.98 this year, or an increase of $43 for every $100,000 of assessed value. This would mean an additional $174 in taxes for a home valued at $400,000.

The budget also includes phasing-out pay-to-participate fees for sports and activities. Families now pay a set fee per sport for a single student. The budget calls for a single fee that would give a student access to all sports, and a $25 fee for a student to have access to all co-curricular activities.

The total operating budget for the town, along with the town’s obligation to Cumberland County, is nearly $48.5 million. The municipal budget does not increase the mil rate, so there would be a tax rate of $15.14 per $1,000 of assessed value for 2017, compared to $14.63 for the current fiscal year, a 3.5 percent increase.

Voters will also be asked, as required by state law, if they want to continue approving the school budget by referendum for another three years.

If the answer to Question 3 is no, the budget approval process would rest entirely with the School Board and Town Council.

Polls will be open at Falmouth High School, 74 Woodville Road, from 7 a.m.-8 p.m. June 14.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.