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Topsham voters waste no time approving municipal budget

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Topsham voters waste no time approving municipal budget

TOPSHAM — Voters approved an $8.5 million fiscal 2014 municipal budget at Town Meeting Wednesday evening.

The meeting at Mt. Ararat High School drew 88 registered voters, who approved 22 warrant articles in less than an hour. The budget, endorsed by both the Board of Selectmen and Finance Committee, passed without any amendments.

Next year's spending plan, which does not include school and county expenses, reflects a 4.8 percent increase over this year. It includes $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.

An additional $10,000, for the Topsham Community Fund, will go toward the Androscoggin Bike Path project.

Municipal taxes will increase more than 3.6 percent, to nearly $4 million.

Factoring in a potential 5.2 percent increase in Topsham's assessment from School Administrative District 75 (to $7.9 million), and a 2.85 percent hike in Sagadahoc County expenses (to $1.4 million), Topsham's tax rate could increase 3.8 percent.

The hike would mean the current rate of $16.21 per $1,000 of property valuation could rise to $16.83.

Among capital expenses contributing to the municipal budget increase are the $200,000 purchase of a new 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, along with $20,000 in reserves for cardiac monitors to be bought in two years.

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

Also in the spending plan is a 3 percent contractual raise for employees, and about $22,000 toward a school resource officer position being co-funded by SAD 75.

"The School Board, the Finance Committee and the Board of Selectmen all agree that it's wise to have that position in the school," Town Manager Cornell Knight said. The officer is to serve mainly at Mt. Ararat High School and as needed at Mt. Ararat Middle School.

Voters Wednesday also accepted Serenity Lane, off West Merrill Road, as a public road, and decided to re-zone an area on Route 201 from Rural Residential 3 to Rural Commercial Use designation.

They also agreed to have the town 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 operate at the former U.S. Navy Commissary.

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