Topsham municipal budget could shrink by 1%

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TOPSHAM — Town Manager Cornell Knight said last week that he is proposing a spending plan for next year that will decline nearly 1 percent.

The current $8.14 million municipal budget would drop to $8.06 million, under Knight’s request.

The Board of Selectmen will also make a request, and residents will vote on the budget at Town Meeting in May.

Knight said the draft budget is primarily a maintenance spending plan. One key change is that he did not propose funding an assistant town manager’s position. That position has been open since the firing last December of Paul Caruso, who served as assistant manager for nearly 10 years.

Nearly $290,000 was budgeted in fiscal 2011 for administration. Knight is proposing that decline to $194,000, reflecting the unfunded position.

“I think that we can parcel out the duties with myself and others, to handle the tasks that the assistant manager had handled before,” Knight said. “Mostly it’s an effort to keep expenses as low as possible.”

Caruso’s duties included tax collector and human resources director.

Revenues for next year are expected to be $3.3 million, a drop from the $3.9 million that was anticipated for this year. Whereas nearly $41,000 in bond reserves was allocated toward fiscal 2011 revenues, Knight is proposing to use no bond reserve funds next year, because that money has dried up. He also recommends using less money from surplus: $250,000 next year compared with $400,000 this year.

State revenue sharing is anticipated to increase from more than $664,000 this year to more than $705,000 next year. But in fiscal 2009 Topsham received more than $881,000, which dropped to almost $676,000 in fiscal 2010.

The Board of Selectmen and Finance Committee plan to meet in a workshop at the Topsham Municipal Building at 6 p.m. Monday, March 28.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net.

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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.