Falmouth property owners face 5% tax hike

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FALMOUTH — Residents heard full budget presentations from both the School Board and Town Council last week at Falmouth Elementary School.

Andrew Kinley, chairman of the School Board’s Finance Committee, presented the board’s nearly $30.4 million proposal. It contains a nearly $1.3 million spending increase that will lead to a 65-cent increase in the schools’ portion of the property tax rate, up to $10.50 per $1,000.

“We started this process way back in November and December looking at what are the goals in this district,” Kinley said. “We are trying to meet the needs of the students in this district, that is our highest goal.”

Councilor Karen Farber presented the $11 million municipal budget. The $80,000 increase brings the municipal portion of the mil rate to $3.02 per $1,000 of property value, a one-cent increase.

According to Town Manager Nathan Poore, when the school, municipal and county mil rates are combined, the total tax rate would increase 70 cents, or about 5 percent, to $14.13 per $1,000 of assessed value. That adds up to an annual tax of $2,826 on a home valued at $200,000, an increase of $140.

Residents in attendance were generally supportive of both budgets, but urged councilors and board members to try to pare down spending to avoid tax hikes in next year’s budget.

“As we look forward, I would hope the council could work toward the goal of not necessarily having a tax increase every year,” Russ Anderson said. “I appreciate there are pressures and that might be difficult, but if we set that as an objective, maybe we will achieve that goal.”

Jim Sanders, a Foreside Road resident, said that even with “darkening economic clouds” and the state and federal government burdening municipalities, the two bodies did a good job keeping increases low for residents. But he echoed Anderson’s call for reduced spending in the future.

“In my opinion, the bottom line is that it is not going to get any better (in coming years) so, therefore, I would ask the board and the council to be more proactive in looking at next year at the same time as looking to cut more this year,” Sanders said.

Claudia King said she feels the town and School Department did their due diligence in crafting budgets that allow the town to move forward.

Councilors also applauded both of the budgets.

Councilor Teresa Pierce said she knows how much work went into creating the budgets and she is impressed that both teams were able to keep the tax impact so low while maintaining a level of performance from the schools, emergency responders and other municipal programs.

“(The budget) reflects well that the core values and things we expect in our town are being met in a very efficient way,” Pierce said.

Councilor Karen Farber said that over the last 10 years, both the town and the School Board have worked very hard to keep the impact on taxpayers low. She said that by doing things like closing Town Hall on Fridays and moving to alternative energy to heat the schools, the town has engaged in out-of-the-box thinking to save its residents money.

“We have made hard decisions on the municipal side, but these are the decisions people have been working on, and although we are seeing some bump up in (spending) it would be a really different kind of bump if those (previous) decisions hadn’t been made,” Farber said.

Residents will have the final say on the School Budget in a June 11 referendum.

Amber Cronin can be reached at acronin@theforecaster.net or 781-3661 ext. 125. Follow her on Twitter @croninamber.