Freeport seeks flat tax rate, finds field funds

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FREEPORT — The Town Council Tuesday night directed the finance director to maintain a flat municipal tax rate while creating the fiscal year 2012 budget.

The municipal budget will be rolled out April 5. Town Manager Dale Olmstead said even though the county budget has increased, the water rate will go up and the town will have to pay to maintain an Amtrak train platform, the tax rate could remain unchanged from this year.

Finance Director Abbe Yacoben presented the council with a list of new programs that could be added to the budget with a tax rate increase, and the council will prioritize the requests and discuss them at upcoming budget meetings.

Some of the programs include video on demand for viewing town meetings; additional paving funds; an additional police officer and cruiser; five full-time paramedics and firefighters; a technology librarian, and seasonal help for the Public Works Department.

Some of the new programs could be absorbed within the capital or municipal budgets, Olmstead said.

“We can provide you with a maintenance budget with no tax increases and no reductions in service, or you could move some programs and see an impact on the tax rate,” he said.

The council will meet with the Regional School Unit 5 Board of Directors on Monday, March 28, at 6 p.m. in the high school cafeteria to review budgets. The council will meet April 5, from 6-7 p.m., to workshop the municipal budget in Council Chambers and schedule future budget workshops.

In other business, Olmstead said of the nearly $2.7 million in excess fund balance, the council could use between $2.2 million and $2.4 million to fund recreation projects.

The Freeport Fields and Trails group has proposed a multi-use athletic fields and trails complex on a parcel of land on Hunter Road. The facility would cost about $2.9 million for four playing fields, three baseball diamonds, trails for Nordic skiing and mountain biking and running, a recreational lodge, a maintenance plan and turf field built by Seacoast United Soccer Club.

Olmstead said of the $2.7 million in excess fund balance, he recommends using about $160,000 to develop the Amtrak station, about $2.3 million to fund the recreation project and keep about $100,000 in reserves to get through the budget process.

The Conservation Commission may also help fund some of the recreation project, Olmstead said. Since the trails proposed on the Hunter Road property abut 260 acres of town-owned land, including Hedgehog Mountain, the Conservation Commission has been asked to spend $100,000 towards the land and help to maintain and create additional trails. The additional funds would be raised privately.

In addition, the Freeport Athletic and Recreational Facilities Advisory Committee has a nearly $3 million plan to create a sports complex with a track, bleachers, turf field, press box and lights at the high school. The RSU 5 board will discuss if and when it will float a bond for that project.

The council will hold a special meeting to vote on the appropriation of funds for recreation projects at a meeting on April 12.

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or aanderson@theforecaster.net

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