Topsham manager's proposed budget up less than 1/4%

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TOPSHAM — Town Manager Rich Roedner’s draft fiscal 2019 budget, which he introduced to the Board of Selectmen Feb. 1, contains an increase of 0.24 percent, or about $28,000, over current spending.

The $11.8 million town budget is subject to change between now and May 16, when it goes to a Town Meeting vote. With placeholder estimates added in for assessments from Sagadahoc County ($1.7 million, up 2 percent) and School Administrative District 75 (nearly $10 million, up 3 percent), Topsham’s total appropriations would be $23.5 million, a hike of 1.52 percent.

The impact on the town’s tax rate, currently $18.12 per $1,000 of property valuation, has yet to be determined.

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Among expenditure increases are an approximately $54,000, or 15.28 percent, increase in public utilities (rising to $409,000), which include traffic lights, traffic signal maintenance and hydrants.

The fire and rescue service line item shows a hike of $111,000, or 13.2 percent (to reach nearly $953,000), due largely to the addition of two full-time firefighters. Since one would start this September and the other next January, the two positions represent 1.25 new employees in fiscal 2019.

A half-time permanent assistant position could be added to the Finance Office, increasing that line item 53 percent, to about $133,000.

Capital expenses are due to drop nearly $654,000 (nearly 40 percent), down to $994,000, thanks to not including monies from the town’s undesignated fund balance and economic development tax increment financing fund.

“If we include these funds this year, we will see decreases in other areas, and an increase here,” Roedner explained in a Jan. 26 memo to the Board of Selectmen.

Debt service is projected to decrease nearly $43,000 (about 3 percent), down to about $1.4 million. If no additional debt were issued, Topsham would pay off its existing bonds by fiscal 2027, Roedner said.

General revenues – including excise taxes, and building and subdivision permits – are set to rise 4.2 percent, to reach about $3 million. Homestead reimbursement, another source of revenue, is due to increase $96,000 (nearly 24 percent), to reach $500,000.

Whereas the town drew $1 million from a surplus in fiscal 2018 to help offset taxes, Roedner proposes using nearly $646,000 next year.

The town has a policy dictating that its surplus must be between 16.7 and 18 percent of its total expenditures, Roedner said in an interview Feb. 2.

“If we go over that, we’re supposed to bring it back down into that range,” he explained. “Last year we were way over it, and we took $1 million out to bring us back down. This year … we’re still over but we’re closer.”

The town is about $646,000 over its policy limit, hence the use of that amount from surplus, Roedner added.

Overall valuation, a factor in determining the town’s tax rate, shows an anticipated 0.6 percent increase, which represents a new value of about $6 million. New growth is certain to be added by April, Roedner said.

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

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.