Preliminary Cumberland town budget shows 4.8% hike

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CUMBERLAND — An early version of next year’s municipal budget projects a 4.8 percent increase, resulting in an $11 million spending plan.

A public workshop on the fiscal 2018 budget will be held 8 a.m.-noon Saturday, March 18 at Town Hall. The Town Council could approve the spending plan April 24 or May 8, Town Manager Bill Shane said in an interview Tuesday.

A 7 percent, or $348,000, increase in salaries and benefits accounts for more than two-thirds of the potential $508,000 budget hike. Of that increase, $85,000 comprises health insurance, $115,000 is being added to full-time wages for 53 employees, and nearly $102,000 is a proposed increase in part-time wages for about 200 employees.

Cumberland’s code enforcement officer and assessor positions are proposed to increase next year from part- to full-time roles, to compensate for increasing workloads, Shane said. Going from a shared assessor to a full-time employee could add roughly $5,000 to spending, according to Finance Director Heather Perreault.

The possible impact on the tax rate of elevating code enforcement to full time would have minimal to no impact on the tax rate, since associated revenues have covered that position’s costs, and the town expects that will continue, Perreault noted.

The budget also calls for a 2 percent cost-of-living adjustment for staff.

Other pieces of the overall budget increase include tools and equipment (5.5 percent); general expenses (5.1 percent); debt service (4.8 percent); and budget transfers (3.2 percent). Other expenses, such as a nearly $814,000 Cumberland County tax assessment (up 5 percent) comprises 7.6 percent of the overall budget increase.

The initial budget proposal, which Shane’s staff submitted a month ago, called for a 7.5 percent spending increase, from which about $250,000 was cut in order to bring the increase down to 4.8 percent, the manager said.

“What we came up with were some very difficult choices, because … the department heads (delivered) a very responsible budget,” Shane said.

The municipal budget does not take into account the significant impact of the School Administrative District 51 assessment. If the school assessment does not increase, Cumberland’s current tax rate of $18.25 per $1,000 of property valuation would remain the same, “but that’s not reality,” Shane said.

As currently proposed, the municipal budget’s impact on property taxes would be 1.8 percent, an amount offset entirely by elements such as new property tax revenues, excise taxes, and building and electrical permit revenues, Shane said.

Cumberland’s fiscal 2018 tax rate will ultimately be derived by adding town expenses (minus town revenues), county and school assessments, and tax increment financing funds, and dividing that total by the town’s total taxable value of $1.3 billion.

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

This pie chart breaks down the impact of various Cumberland municipal expenses on next year’s total potential budget increase. Salaries and benefits comprises the largest piece of the hike at 68.49 percent.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.