Topsham tax rate could fall slightly in fiscal 2013

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TOPSHAM — Town Manager Cornell Knight is recommending a fiscal 2013 budget that could result in a slight tax decrease.

The fiscal 2012 tax commitment of $15 million – reflecting a tax rate of $16.15 per $1,000 of property valuation – could drop to $14.95 million, with a tax rate of $16.08, according to Knight’s preliminary numbers.

“If the school is able to hold the local contribution at last year’s level as they recently announced, Topsham’s contribution would be significantly lower due to the state valuation totals being much lower this year,” Knight explained in a memo to the Board of Selectmen.

Topsham was assessed $7.8 million by School Administrative District 75 for the current fiscal year, an amount that could drop to $7.5 million, according to early estimates. The town’s Sagadahoc County assessment could increase from $1.33 million to nearly $1.36 million.

Although Topsham’s net tax commitment could decrease by about $70,000, a group from the Highland Green retirement community has asked the town to fund overnight rescue coverage, which would cost $70,000, Knight said. That expenditure is not in the manager’s budget.

There is staff on call during the night, but the group is asking for two people to be at the Fire-Rescue station during that time, in order to improve response times.

The operating side of the municipal budget could increase from $7.9 million to $8 million, an increase of 1.25 percent. The slight climb is due primarily to an increase in debt payments for a plow truck and a fire truck the town purchased last year, Knight explained. No employee raises are budgeted, and a vacant Police Department position has not been funded.

“This is another no-frills budget that maintains services but delays some much-needed capital expense, particularly road paving, to future budgets,” Knight said.

Residents will vote on next year’s budget at Town Meeting in May.

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.