Falmouth municipal budget avoids tax increase

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FALMOUTH — The $11 million fiscal year 2013 budget proposed by Town Manager Nathan Poore increases spending by 3 percent, but would require no increase in property taxes.

Poore said the municipal share of the tax rate will stay at $3 per $1,000 of assessed value. The effect of the school budget on the tax rate will become more clear after proposed education spending is released Friday.

Poore this week presented his proposed $11 million budget to the finance committee. It includes a bump of $319,000 in spending he said results from an anticipated increase in capital spending, cost-of-living and overtime increases, and higher fuel costs.

However, Poore said those increases were offset by a “significant” revenue increase of $328,000. The largest chunk of that increase – $239,000 – comes from vehicle excise fees.

Finance Director Robert Boschen said the increase in excise fee revenue is mainly due to more residents buying new cars, as well as a fix to the town’s excise tax software, which now considers the value of accessory items such as air conditioning or large engines.

Other revenue increases include $35,o00 in cable franchise fees, $13,000 in state revenue sharing, $12,000 in recycling center fees and $10,000 in ambulance charges.

Poore said cost of wages and benefits for town employees is increasing by $123,000, or 2.2 percent, to nearly $5.3 million. He has budgeted an additional $30,000 for heating and vehicle fuel, and an additional $19,000 for the library. The library requested more than $399,000, a 5 percent increase from the current budget.

During a finance committee meeting Tuesday, Councilors Bonny Rodden and Tony Payne said they would like to hear more from library trustees about future plans for the library, including the addition of programs.

Poore said the town’s property valuation of $2.1 billion is expected to increase by $16 million.

“That will result in $52,000 in added property tax collections,” he said.

Poore said his proposed budget is consistent with the message he conveyed to department heads that he wanted to avoid tax increases. The budget does not add or expand programs, but it doesn’t eliminate services, he said.

“It’s not really exciting, but we kind of like it that way,” he said.

Superintendent of Schools Barbara Powers’ presentation of the school budget is slated for noon Friday, March 16, during a School Board workshop.

Dan O’Shea, director of finance and operations for the School Department, said he could not discuss specifics of the budget proposal before Powers’ presentation.

O’Shea said the school is facing a loss of $530,000 in federal jobs bill money, a $100,000-per-year reduction in Medicaid reimbursement and payments on debt for the elementary school. School enrollment also has increased 2.5 percent.

The department is expecting a $1.9 million increase in state aid. More than $1.5 million of the district’s anticipated $7.49 million total in state aid is debt service on the new Falmouth Elementary School and does not go toward operating expenses.

The school budget presentation is scheduled for 3 p.m. Friday in council chambers at Town Hall. The Town Council and School Committee will have a joint budget meeting at 3 p.m. Tuesday, March 27, in council chambers.

A public hearing on both budgets is set for 7 p.m. on April 11. The Town Council is expected to vote on the budgets on April 23. A school budget validation referendum is scheduled for June 12.

Gillian Graham can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or ggraham@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @grahamgillian.