Manager recommends 2.8% Topsham budget hike
TOPSHAM — Town Manager Jim Ashe unveiled a draft municipal budget for fiscal 2010 on Feb. 12 that is up 2.8 percent, or about $216,000, from the current budget of nearly $7.7 million.
Meeting with the Board of Selectmen and Finance Commission in a workshop session, Ashe said the municipal property tax liability in the budget – pending no change in school or county requests – could be $3.4 million, just under the state's LD 1 municipal spending limit for Topsham.
The tax rate for fiscal 2010 could be $13.95 per $1,000 of property valuation, 3.34 percent higher than the current $13.50, if the school and county budgets remain unchanged.
The total draft assessment for Topsham, including the municipal budget, school and county requests, comes to about $18 million for fiscal 2010, an increase of about 1 percent. Total revenues are $3.8 million, down by nearly 10 percent from the current year. Subtracting revenues from the assessment leaves the net commitment for taxpayers in Ashe's budget at $14.3 million, a 4.26 percent increase over the current budget.
All of these numbers are subject to change, though. For instance, Ashe said he still does not have budget requests for next year from School Administrative District 75 and the county.
Ashe pointed out that his request for 2010 is less than that for 2009, adding that "we've worked hard to get this budget as near even as possible."
While Topsham employees expect merit increase of various percentages, Ashe said, these increases have not been funded for the past two years. Although many town employees deserve increases, he explained, Ashe and his department heads have determined that the town cannot afford those increases next year.
Ashe also has not included any new staff among his recommendations, except for an extra four hours each week in General Assistance. The added workload on that department's director is reflective of the hard economic times, he said.
On that note, Ashe is projecting an approximate $250,000 decline in general revenues, down from $2.6 million. While he said he had hoped to reduce Topsham's use of surplus, he has recommended the town use $400,000 again this year to offset the fiscal 2010 tax request.
Department reviews of the budget continue over the next few weeks. A public hearing on the budget and Town Meeting warrant is scheduled for April 16, followed by Town Meeting on May 20, where residents will vote on next year's budget.