Yarmouth voters get budgets, road bond

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YARMOUTH — Town councilors voted 7-0 April 6 to support the town and school budgets and $4 million in borrowing for road repairs.

Hillside Street road work and improvements will need half, or $2 million, of the $4 million. The remainder is for roads throughout town. If the $4 million bond is approved by voters at the annual Town Meeting June 6, interest-only payments would begin in fiscal year 2019. 

The proposed total operating budget for fiscal 2018, meanwhile, is $37.1 million. That’s up $1.05 million from the present $36 million, or a 2.9 percent increase.

The municipal budget may rise from $11.9 million to $12.1 million, or a 1.7 percent hike. The school budget, pending voter approval in June, may increase from its present $23.1 million to $23.9 million, or nearly 3.45 percent.

The Cumberland County tax is expected to rise 5.4 percent, or a bit over $56,000. The county tax is now $1.03 million and next year would be $1.09 million.

The projected tax rate is $17.30 per $1,000 of valuation, a 1.39 percent increase over the current rate of $17.06 per $1,000. 

Town Manager Nat Tupper said the projected tax rate could change, if more state aid becomes available. But that won’t be known until the Legislature wraps up its work later this spring.

“All of our projections are based on our best estimates at this time,” Tupper said.

He shared some good news as he opened the Town Council meeting: Yarmouth is expected to receive $200,000 more in state aid to education money than first estimated.

And, for property owners participating in the homestead program, the property tax exemption is increasing $5,000 to $20,000. The first $20,000 of assessed home value will not be counted toward what homeowners owe in property taxes. Homestead participation requires an earlier program application acceptance, and primary residence for at least a year in town. 

No new town staffing is included in the proposed budget. But Tupper told councilors he wants to start putting money aside to smooth over expected turnover in the Police Department due to retirements.  

There are also no plans, at this time, for trash disposal fees or converting to light emitting diode street lights. 

Also not included in the proposed budget, but mentioned in the discussion, were a municipal TV upgrade and a reminder that Yarmouth Community Services remains in temporary quarters at 200 Main St., where it has been since 2001. 

Some residents asked if a flat budget offers enough for residents, particularly school students. Others  asked how long the town can continue offering what several people described as a “maintenance budget.”

The tone of the discussion was unlike last year’s contentious school budget battle. More residents spoke in support of the school budget than against it.

Under the proposed school budget the district will no longer pay $93 per Advanced Placement exam taken by students, and plaques listing the names of a winning athletic team will no longer be paid for by the schools.

May 4 is the second public hearing for the the new budget. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the American Legion Log Cabin, 196 Main St.

Annual Town Meeting is June 6 in the Frank Harrison Middle School gymnasium. Voting by secret ballot on town election candidates and the 2018 school budget is June 16. 

Lisa D. Connell can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or lconnell@theforecaster.net. Follow Lisa on Twitter: @connell_ld.

Hillside Street in Yarmouth is noted for its dips and buckles, which may be fixed if voters approve a $2 million road repair bond at June 2017 town meeting.