Topsham manager proposes 8% budget hike

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TOPSHAM — The fiscal 2016 municipal budget proposed by Town Manager Rich Roedner calls for an 8 percent increase over current spending.

But the number could change when the Board of Selectmen and Finance Committee deliver their recommendations next month.

Residents, who last May approved the current $8.5 million municipal budget, will vote on next year’s spending plan at Town Meeting Wednesday, May 20.

Roedner is proposing a $9.2 million budget for next year. A valuation increase of $5.3 million, which the manager called “modest” in a memo last month to the Board of Selectmen, is built into the spending plan, although the final number will not be known until August.

The municipal tax rate would increase 3.87 percent, from $17.33 per $1,000 of property valuation, to $18, according to Roedner’s numbers. With projected 2 percent hikes included from both School Administrative District 75 and Sagadahoc County assessments, the tax rate could rise 5.1 percent, from $17.33 to $18.21, according to the manager.

Highlights of the proposed budget include the $170,000 purchase of a new Public Works loader, as well as $60,000 toward two new police vehicles, replacing two that each have more than 140,000 miles.

The library portion of the budget, as recommended by the Topsham Public Library board of directors, would increase 42 percent, from about $420,000 to nearly $597,000. That hike includes an increase in staffing to address customer needs, and “bringing staff wages in-line with municipal positions,” according to Roedner.

General revenues show an approximately $49,000 increase, and Topsham’s reliance on its unassigned fund balance has risen from $360,000 to $400,000, still keeping the town in line with its fund balance policy, Roedner said.

The town’s three employee contracts – police, supervisors, and operations – are also up this year, and the draft budget includes assumptions about the result of those negotiations, according to Roedner.

A 10 percent increase in health-care costs is expected, and a 53rd pay week due to 2016 being a leap year could raise wage expenses by almost 2 percent, Roedner said.

The budget also includes an increase from $325,000 to $400,000 in funding for road repaving.

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

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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.