Proposed Harpswell budget sees nearly 5% increase

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HARPSWELL — The town budget could increase nearly 5 percent from last year if $4.45 million in proposed appropriations are approved in March.

The proposed budget for calendar year 2014 was expected to be reviewed by the Board of Selectmen on Thursday. It will have to be approved at the March 15 Town Meeting.

The budget increase partly comes as a result of a proposal to continue around-the-clock paramedic services from Mid Coast Hospital, which was initially approved for the first three months of 2014 at a special Town Meeting last December.

That decision allowed the town to appropriate nearly $35,000 from the unassigned fund balance to increase paramedic services from 12 hours a day, five days a week, to 24 hours a day, seven days a week, beginning in January.

The town spent nearly $124,000 for paramedic services last year, and that figure is set to increase by about 90 percent to nearly $242,000 this year. With the extra expenditure already approved for the first quarter, total costs for 24/7 paramedic services will be nearly $274,000 this year.

The increase in paramedic services was proposed to help address of the town’s lack of volunteer emergency medical technicians, and its aging population.

Though more volunteers have stepped up for EMT training since the problem first came to light last year, Board of Selectmen Chairwoman Elinor Multer said the increased paramedic services will still help address an important issue.

“I don’t think (the aging) trend is going to reverse,” she said, “and all the people who have been working with the paramedic are pretty unanimous that it’s helpful to have this highly trained individual who is available 24/7.”

The proposed budget also includes a $30,000 expenditure for a part-time marine services contractor who would help the town determine how to manage its marine resources. The position would compliment the two marine patrolmen contracted from the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office.

The budget hike also comes from an increase in the town’s debt service for a $1 million road maintenance bond approved in 2012, an increase in the town’s vehicle replacement and equipment replacement fund, and a $15,000 appropriation to fund a $70,000 playground at Harpswell Community School.

The March 15 Town Meeting begins at noon at the Harpswell Community School, 308 Harpswell Islands Rd.

Dylan Martin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or Follow him on Twitter: @DylanLJMartin.