n-fptcouncil-012909 Freeport budget goal: Maintain jobs, services

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FREEPORT — Town Manager Dale Olmstead presented a preliminary fiscal 2010 budget Tuesday that he said maintains town services and jobs, while raising property taxes less than 1 percent.
But he raised the possibility of job cuts if revenue doesn’t meet expectations and town councilors don’t go along with the proposed tax increase.
The municipal budget forecast presented to the Town Council includes a spending increase of 2.5 percent from this year to offset revenue losses and maintain the same services. It would requiring raising $166,500 from taxes – a property tax rate increase of 10 cents, or .08 percent, to $12.85 per $1,000 of assessed value.
Olmstead said he has implemented a spending freeze and will likely only recommend essential capital purchases.
“I will probably reject 75 percent of requests,” he said.
The preliminary budget shows revenue losses from the state and local sources could be as high as $261,500.
The losses from the state would come in revenue sharing, state aid to roads, park fees and Homestead exemptions. On the local level, Olmstead said planning fees and building permits are down, and there will be a reduction in earned interest and recycling rates.
A few revenue gains are also expected, in the form of tax increment financing, new value from Village Station and debt reduction.
“There will be $18,500 to fund the increases in the operating budget,” Olmstead said.
While energy costs are down, the county tax is going up and could mean a $50,000 impact to Freeport.
On a positive note, Olmstead said about six years ago the Town Council created a tax rate stabilization fund to help in times like these.
“We can see the benefit of this account over the next three years,” he said.
In addition, Olmstead said the possibility of consolidating dispatch services with the Cumberland County Regional Communications Center in Windham could save up to $100,000.
Olmstead said it will be wise to participate in regional collaboration and consolidation as the economy worsens.
“If the council said there will be no tax increase this year on the municipal side and there are no other revenues, I have to slash three positions,” he said.
Councilors will discuss their goals at a workshop Tuesday, Feb. 3, at 7 p.m. in Town Hall.

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