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Topsham faces 4.8% budget increase, 3.9% tax hike

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Topsham faces 4.8% budget increase, 3.9% tax hike

TOPSHAM — An $8.5 million fiscal 2014 municipal budget, reflecting a 4.8 percent increase over the current year, goes to Town Meeting May 15.

The Board of Selectmen forwarded a 21-article warrant to the meeting on April 11. Voters will decide budget categories by line item, usually by a show of hands, at the Mt. Ararat High School gathering.

Included in the municipal spending plan, which does not include school and county expenses, is $1.5 million for debt service, $2.7 million for general government, about $668,000 for capital programs, $2.2 million for public safety, and $1.5 million for public works and solid waste.

Another $10,000, for the Topsham Community Fund, would go toward the Androscoggin Bike Path project.

With School Administrative District 75 and Sagadahoc County costs included, Topsham's taxes could increase nearly 3.9 percent, raising the tax rate from the current $16.21 per $1,000 of property valuation to $16.84, according to information available late last week.

Capital expenses that contribute to the budget increase include the $200,000 purchase of a new Public Works sweeper vehicle, which replaces one more than 20 years old. Paving costs are up to $325,000, an increase of $50,000.

Other budgeted expenses include $10,000 set aside in reserves for a Fire Department service vehicle to be purchased next year, as well as $20,000 in reserves for cardiac monitors to be bought in two years.

One capital expense reduction, for Bay Park drainage, would drop from $50,000 in fiscal 2013 to $25,000 next year.

Also budgeted into the spending plan are 3 percent contractual raises for employees.

Both the Board of Selectmen and Finance Committee have agreed on all the budget items.

Voters will also decide on adoption of a few ordinances, and whether to accept Serenity Lane, located off West Merrill Road, as a public road. They will also vote on whether the town should submit an application for a $240,000 Community Development Block Grant to the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development.

The application is on behalf of the Maine Harvest Co., which intends to open at the former Navy Commissary, according to Town Manager Cornell Knight.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.