Yarmouth council finds savings, but tax rate rises 2.5%

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YARMOUTH — The tax rate has been a moving target as changes to the school budget and the cost of fuel for Wyman Station has raised a projected increase from 1.37 percent to 2.5 percent.

Working as the Operations Committee on Feb. 14, the council identified several ways to reduce the budget by nearly $63,500 and increase revenues by about $8,000. These changes reduced the municipal tax rate increase from the original estimation of 4 percent to 1.83 percent.

But on Monday night, Town Manager Nat Tupper reported that due to a change in the Cumberland County tax projections, the estimate would be closer to a 1.37 percent municipal tax rate increase.

By Tuesday morning, however, Tupper received the declaration of fuel values at Wyman Station, which reduced the tax base projection by about $5.3 million. That number increased the tax rate hike to 1.84 percent, or $20.16 per $1,000 of assessed value.

Tupper sent the updated budget information to the School Department and found that its revenue and balance projections had been reduced from $2.5 million to $2.36 million. That $162,000 reduction added another 13 cents to the tax rate, or a total of $20.29 per $1,000 of assessed value, Tupper said.

In a memorandum to the council, Tupper explained that the change in the school numbers are a response to the fact that fiscal year 2013 “looks pretty grim.” The School Committee would like to retain some tax stabililzation for an additional year, he said.

“To be honest, it seems like a reasonable and responsible thing to do,” Tupper said.

With that consideration, the projected tax rate as of March 1 was $20.29, an increase of 2.5 percent from this year.

While changes to the school budget and Wyman Station’s fuel values have altered the tax rate, councilors identified several ways to reduce the municipal budget by nearly $63,500 and increase revenues by about $8,000.

Changes include reducing $39,500 in reserve funding for fire and rescue; public works equipment; roads and paving; building reserves, and library and police equipment reserves.

Councilors also reduced nearly $24,000 in expenditures by delaying the preservation of some town records, reducing a few employee benefits, hiring college students to help clean sewer lines, reducing the historical society’s subsidy and eliminating four additional free dumping days.

The council also identified a way to increase revenues by charging contractors access to the landfill and implementing a building use fee for meetings and gatherings. Potential revenues could be up to $8,200.

The $10.7 million municipal budget includes an increase in expenditures of $182,000, or 1.74 percent, from the current year. The estimated budget would increase the property tax rate by 49 cents, or 2.49 percent, to $20.29 per $1,000 of assessed value.

Councilors will continue to discuss the budget at a March 4 meeting at the Log Cabin, when they will receive the updated municipal operating budget and the School Committee’s recommended operating budget.

They will also consider a request from the Planning Board to approve a four-lot subdivision and contract zone request on Wharf Road.

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or aanderson@theforecaster.net

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