In Falmouth, spending may rise, but taxes won't

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FALMOUTH — No new taxes.

That was the sentiment expressed nearly a dozen times last week during a joint budget presentation by the town and School Department in the Falmouth Elementary School cafeteria.

About 30 people attended the April 10 meeting (including town councilors, members of the School Board, and several town employees) and no one spoke during two public hearings.

In short, the fiscal 2015 operating budgets for the town and the school are both going up, but increases in revenue will offset expenses and the impact to property owners is nil.

Combined, the budget proposals call for $43.1 million in spending – a 4.35 percent increase from this year’s totals.

The town’s proposed $11.4 million budget would have a nominal effect on the property tax rate: a reduction of 1.3 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. The proposal represents a 3 percent increase over the current budget of $11.1 million.

Under the proposal, the town’s expenses will increase by $333,000, which is offset by projected gains in revenue, most notably from automobile excise taxes, which are trending upward after three years of improving sales, Town Manager Nathan Poore said.

The bulk of the increased expenses are attributed to wages and benefits for town employees, the creation of a new position in the Police Department, and increased demand on the town’s emergency medical services through the Fire Department.

The proposed school budget calls for $31.7 million in spending, a 4.76 percent increase from the current budget of $30.2 million.

The spending increase of $1.4 million is offset by gains in state aid, student tuition, use of undesignated funds, and property taxes from new homes.

The increased spending is due to increases in debt service on a $5 million bond for improvements to the middle school, plus wages and benefits for employees, including the schools’ share of retirement expenses, which School Board member Lucy Tucker described as a “big hit” on the bottom line.

Tucker also said Falmouth’s property tax rate of $14.12 per $1,000 of assessed value is the lowest among 10 neighboring communities, including Cape Elizabeth, Portland and Yarmouth.

Ben McCanna can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or Follow him on Twitter: @BenMcCanna.