Initial budget sees 3.4% tax hike in Yarmouth

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YARMOUTH — Number-crunching season has arrived with the release of school and municipal draft budgets and workshops.

Town Manager Nat Tupper presented a draft budget for fiscal 2013 detailing $10.6 million in spending, a 1.14 percent increase over the current budget.

The municipal budget draft to be reviewed by councilors before it is presented at the annual Town Meeting on June 12 is part of a total anticipated budget of $31.8 million, that will include school spending and the town’s share of Cumberland County operations.

“It is a budget that did not require any wholesale position or program eliminations,” Tupper said.

The municipal and school budgets as envisioned by Tupper anticipate a 3.4 percent increase in revenue from property taxes.

Tupper does not play a role in creating the fiscal 2013 school budget to be approved by voters first at the annual school budget meeting June 5 and then in a June 12 referendum. But his preliminary estimate is $20.8 million school budget funded with about $18 million in property taxes. Municipal operations would be funded by about $8 million in property taxes.

Tupper said crafting the budget was made easier by a reduction in debt service after the retirement of two 1991 bonds used to expand the waste-water treatment facility and Harrison Middle School. The total reduction of bond and interest payments and associated fees is about $398,000.

However, a $12 million reduction in the property valuation of the Wyman Station power plant on Cousin’s Island to $95 million puts a damper on property valuations driving the tax rate, Tupper said.

The reduction is the biggest reason industrial property valuations are expected to decrease by 11 percent while private property valuations may increase by about 3 percent, Tupper said.

The current tax rate is $20.28 per $1,000 of assessed value. Tupper estimated the property tax rate could increase to $20.89 per $1,000 of assessed value for fiscal 2013.

Included in the budget for municipal salaries and benefits are projections of 2 percent cost-of-living raises for unionized police, waste-water facility and parks and public works employees. Tupper said contracts for all three unions expire in June and projected pay increases could also be accompanied by increased employee contributions to health insurance plans.

Overall, benefit costs for municipal employees are projected to increase almost 9 percent, or $99,500. The increase is offset by a $17,000 decrease in spending on administrative costs. Public safety spending is projected to increase by almost $67,000, driven largely by a $27,000 increase in rental fees for fire hydrants, according to budget documents.

Town Council Chairman Steve Woods said there could be as many as eight meetings and workshops to discuss the municipal budget, but councilors and Tupper were still discussing when to schedule the deliberations.

The first school budget workshop was held Tuesday at Rowe School. A second budget workshop is scheduled for 7 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 14, at William H. Rowe School, 52 School St. The budget will be submitted to the School Committee on March 8.

Superintendent of Schools Judith Paolucci’s initial draft budget draft presentation can be viewed at www.yarmouthschools.org by clicking on the superintendent’s tab.

Tupper’s proposed budget is available for view at www.yarmouth.me.us under the Finance Department listing on the Town Departments page.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow David on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.