Harpswell Town Meeting OKs nearly 8% budget increase

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HARPSWELL — Nearly 200 residents turned out for Town Meeting March 9 to pass a $5.6 million spending plan that marks a 7.8 percent increase over last year’s $5.2 million budget.

Voters elected Jane Covey to the Board of Selectmen and Linda Hall to the School Administrative District 75 Board of Directors.

At the meeting held at Harpswell Community School, 72 warrant articles were approved in less than three hours with no opposition, including two ordinances that regulate sport shooting ranges and the use of firearms.

According to budget figures provided by the town, the jump in the municipal budget is being offset in part by an increase of 9.6 percent in non-property tax revenues. That includes a 27 percent increase in the town’s fund balance from $370,000 in 2018 to $470,000, as well as a 16-percent increase in state revenue sharing. 

Town Manager Kristi Eiane said despite the higher town budget, the combined increase in the school and municipal tax rate for 2019 is expected to be less than 3 percent.

The school budget is expected to increase an estimated 3.5 percent, according to Eiane, up from $38 million. However, the SAD 75 budget is still being developed, and is scheduled for a School Board vote April 25. Voters will tackle the budget first at a May 23 meeting, then be asked to validate it at in a June 11 referendum.

The three factors driving the municipal budget increase are capital funding for roads, snow removal, and the Mitchell Field waterfront development plan, which each saw an increase of about $50,000.

Additionally, on the operations side of the budget, there are wage and salary increases for several part-time positions ($24,750), including making two municipal firefighter positions regular part-time positions, which will increase the number of hours they can work and make them eligible for benefits. 

The two gun-related ordinances replace a previous one-page firearms ordinance that was adopted in 1999. The ordinance now includes a limit on the hours firearms can be discharged and a clear definition of what constitutes a shooting range. Target practice is now allowed from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. or sunset, whichever comes first.

Jane Covey, the only person who submitted nomination papers for the open selectmen seat, was elected to the Board of Selectmen for a three-year term.

Linda Hall, who ran as a write-in candidate for the SAD 75 board after initially deciding not to hand in nomination papers, was elected to another three-year term.

Several residents commented about how fast the meeting was concluded and said they were pleased with the results. 

“I am very happy that the budget passed and I am very comfortable with the taxes here in Harpswell,” Marnie McFarland said. “That is why I continue to come here to the Town Meeting to show my support and I am glad I live in a town that wants to get things done.”

Donna Frisoli said, “The meeting went by fast and everything went by quite smoothly. I’m happy about that.”

Patti McDonald can be reached at 780-9123 or pmcdonald@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @pmcdonaldme.

Harpswell Town Meeting on March 9 approved a $5.6 million annual budget that increases spending 7.8 percent.

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