Topsham Town Meeting OKs $9M budget

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TOPSHAM — Town Meeting Wednesday approved a $9 million municipal budget, up 5.7 percent from this year.

The Mt. Ararat High School gathering ran a little more than an hour, drew fewer than 100 voters, and spurred little public comment.

Topsham’s current tax rate is $17.33 per $1,000 of property valuation. The town budget will add 63 cents, while a Sagadahoc County tax will add another 7 cents, and a proposed School Administrative District 75 tax would add 82 cents, for a total increase of $1.48.

But thanks to passage of a state law that revised charter school funding, the school budget may drop significantly, which could result in a total Topsham tax increase of $1.01.

The reduced tax bite would mean a $303 annual property tax increase for a home valued at $300,000, compared to $444 before the new law.

Those numbers are based on unapproved expenditures, and assumed valuation increases and levels of outside funding, Town Manager Rich Roedner has said.

The reduced SAD 75 budget was to first go to voters at a district budget meeting Thursday, May 21. Final approval, or rejection, will come in a referendum on Tuesday, June 9.

Many of the increases in the municipal budget are labor-related. The town’s three employee contracts – for police, supervisors and operations – have been up this year, and a 53rd pay week increased wage expenses by almost 2 percent.

Budget highlights also include $170,000 for purchase of a new Public Works loader, and $60,000 for two new police vehicles. There is also an increase from $350,000 to $400,000 in funding for road repaving.

Non-warrant articles also approved Wednesday included an ordinance adjusting the boundary of the town’s Industrial Zone to give it road frontage. Another forms the Residential 2 Business zone in the area across from Center Park Road on Route 196.

Voters also amended one of Topsham’s municipal tax increment financing districts.

The town adopted the first one in and around the Topsham Fair Mall 11 years ago. The amendment partly extends the life of that TIF, and allows funds from it to pay for improvements to Topsham Fair Mall Road.

The amendment also adds a “portage” provision to the TIF language, giving the town the ability, if needed, to use funds from the TIF district on expenses in a downtown TIF district, Roedner has said.

Voters also supported an agreement to create a bicycle-pedestrian trail through Topsham, Richmond, Bowdoinham and Gardiner.

The proposed 32-mile Merrymeeting Trail would link Gardiner’s Kennebec River Trail to Topsham’s bike path, which ultimately will join with the Androscoggin River Pedestrian Bike Path spanning Topsham to Brunswick and Bath, according to The connections will form the Capital to the Coast trail system.

That system would also include an extension to Bath, to be called the Androscoggin to Kennebec Trail, according to the website.

The inter-local agreement is a voluntary association of the four towns, with two members from each town. It will not have jurisdiction over the town, according to Roedner.

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.