Topsham tax rate could grow nearly 2.8%

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TOPSHAM — The town’s total estimated tax rate – including county and school assessments – could increase 2.77 percent in fiscal year 2018, although the amount will not be certain until the town’s valuation is finalized in August.

Municipal spending could increase 10.8 percent, to $10.3 million. Assessments from Sagadahoc County and School Administrative District 75 could be $1.7 million (up 4.5 percent) and $9.8 million (up 6.4 percent), respectively.

Topsham total’s tax commitment could be $18.1 million, an increase of 2.46 percent. That, divided by a town valuation estimated at $983.5 million, creates a tax rate of $18.49 per $1,000 of property valuation – a 2.77 percent, or 50-cent, hike.

A home valued at about $199,000 in Topsham would next year be taxed nearly $3,680, an increase of $99, Town Manager Rich Roedner said in an interview April 14.

The 50-cent net tax rate increase is brought about by a 67-cent hike on the school side, an 8-cent increase on the county side, and a 25-cent drop on the town side, the manager explained. Significant revenue growth is offsetting municipal expenses next year.

The town in late March had a 10.4 percent municipal spending increase, but the Board of Selectmen opted April 13 to add about $33,000 toward part-time help in the town’s assessing and finance offices. The Budget Committee had recommended the funds be added.

Budget recommendations from the Board of Selectmen and Budget Committee, to be considered by residents when voting on the spending plan by line item vote at Town Meeting, are now all in agreement.

The budget can be viewed under the Town Meeting Information tab at topshammaine.com.

Much of Topsham’s potential spending increase is due to a proposed $875,000 – or 113 percent – hike in Topsham’s capital program, bringing the total to $1.6 million. Of that amount, about $265,000 could be spent on design and construction of a replacement culvert to run parallel to Main Street in the Lower Village.

The town also looks to buy a trackless sidewalk plow for $140,000.

The old fire station in the Lower Village, used for storage since the new station opened in 2007, is in “tough shape” with a deteriorating roof, Roedner has said. The town proposes to spend $15,000 to level the building, and another $180,000 to build a 50-by-50-foot steel storage facility in the area of the Public Works Department.

Landscaping and screening along the newest phase of a bicycle and pedestrian path, much of which runs parallel to the Route 196 Coastal Connector, could cost another $20,000 in capital spending.

The capital spending hike is being matched by a revenue increase in surplus, and a shifting of tax increment financing funds from being placed in a reserve account, according to Roedner.

Higher revenues and lower expenditures caused a leap in surplus from $200,000 this year to a projected $1 million next year. The town now needs to bring surplus funds back into its target range of 16.7-18 percent of the operating budget, Roedner said. As a result, another half-million dollars is going toward tax relief, and $500,000 toward the town’s capital program.

One driver behind the increase in revenue is that more was collected in excise tax than expected. Topsham had also funded its Health Reimbursement Arrangement plan at 100 percent this year, but “not nearly all that money got spent, so that money rolled into the general fund, and now we’ve appropriated money (for fiscal year 2018) at a lesser percentage,” Roedner has said.

TIF money would fund the culvert and fire station demolition, the storage building and bike path work would be paid through surplus, and the sidewalk plow from both TIF funds and surplus.

Another $50,000 in TIF funds could go toward designing traffic improvements around the Elm Street Extension area.

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.
  • farmertom2

    People will complain, they always do, but that is a very modest increase.