Topsham Town Meeting gets $8.1M budget

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TOPSHAM — Voters at Town Meeting on Wednesday, May 16, will be asked to approve an $8.1 million municipal budget for next year.

The proposed fiscal 2013 spending plan is up slightly more than 1.8 percent from current spending.

Including potential school and county assessments, Topsham’s tax rate would climb from the current $16.15 per $1,000 of property valuation, to $16.22. This increase would add $21 to the annual tax bill of a home worth $300,000.

While overall expenses will fall from $18.6 million to $18.5 million, a drop in revenues from $3.6 million to $3.46 million causes a net increase in the amount to be assessed in taxes, from $15.02 million to $15.09 million.

The pieces of next year’s spending plan to be voted on individually include $1.5 million for debt service; $2.6 million for general government; nearly $424,000 for the capital projects fund; $2 million for public safety and $1.4 million for public works, solid waste and recycling.

About $706,000 had been proposed for fire protection and rescue, on the public safety line. That increase from about $638,000 in fiscal 2012 included funding for overnight rescue coverage starting Oct. 1.

But both the Board of Selectmen and Finance Committee voted last month to increase that allocation to nearly $728,000, allowing nighttime per diem coverage to instead begin July 1, the start of the next fiscal year.

The board approved the increase 3-2, with Selectmen David Douglass and Ronald Riendeau opposed.

“These are tough times,” Douglass said at the time. “Topsham cannot afford this, in my opinion, right now. I understand that when we break it down, it’s $8 per night. Well, currently, at this tax rate, we have people that can’t pay their taxes today. Not only can they not call an ambulance, they may not have their home.”

A group from the Highland Green retirement community had asked the town to fund the overnight rescue coverage. There has been staff on call during the night, but the group asked for two people to be at the Fire-Rescue station during that time, to improve response times.

“We have an aging society, and people come to live in Maine because it’s a great place to live, and particularly the Topsham-Brunswick area,” Joyce Morgan of Goldfinch Drive said at the time. “But it can be a turnoff if when you get here … you find out you don’t have round-the-clock ambulance service. I think it’s vitally important, and I urge you to vote to approve these funds.”

Residents on May 16 will also vote on several proposed ordinance changes. Town Meeting will be held at Mt. Ararat High School at 7 p.m.

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.