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Municipal budget recommendation up 1.4 percent, would add 11 cents to tax rate

Town Manager Matthew Sturgis is proposing a $12.2 million town budget for 2017-18, up $168,404 over this year's budget, an increase of 1.4 percent.

"Needless to say, this is a very conservatively crafted budget," Sturgis told members of the Town Council before voting to refer the budget to the finance committee, a committee of the whole council, on March 13, 2017.

Revenues are budgeted conservatively as well, and with town valuation projected to increase less than 1 percent, the budget would mean a tax-rate increase of 11 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation, or 2.6 percent, for town services.

The finance committee will begin review of Sturgis' proposal in workshop sessions beginning at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 21, 2017 in the lower-level conference room at Town Hall. [see full review schedule].

The bulk of the $168,404 proposed budget increase is for personnel costs and support of additional rescue coverage. The $33,283 budgeted increase in personnel cost includes adding a second per-diem rescue position, improving the town's coverage, Sturgis said in his budget message. An additional $10,000 is being transferred from the general fund to the rescue special fund to help fund the 24/7 coverage expansion implemented this past year.

The addition of a part-time assistant to the Facilities Department will add $48,000 to the line for contractual services, Sturgis said, accounting for 29 percent of the overall increase; and, $30,000 is budgeted for combatting the effect of winter moths on municipal trees.

On the revenue side, Sturgis said residents are continuing to purchase new vehicles, which is good news for excise-tax revenue. "The budget projects $2,095 million in excise taxes which is $75,000 more than the budget for the current year," Sturgis said.

However, revenue from Community Services programs, including fees for youth and adult programs and use of the pool and fitness center, are budgeted for a collective decrease of 7.5 percent compared to last year. Sturgis called it "right-sizing" of Community Services revenues, which moved from the school department budget to the municipal budget last year. "With this being year-two we have a pretty decent track record to understand what their revenue stream looks like, in comparison to last year when it was mostly estimated," Sturgis said.

Also missing from budgeted revenues is the nearly $54,000 the town of Scarborough had been paying for shared tax assessing services since fiscal 2016. Sturgis, before becoming town manager in January, was serving as assessor in Cape Elizabeth and Scarborough.

Overall, revenues are budgeted at a decrease of $44,330, down 0.9 percent.

Combined town, school and county spending plans for next year are posing a tax-rate increase of 3.6 percent, a 63-cent increase over this year's overall tax rate of $18.17. [proforma as of 3/13/2017] For more on budget review schedules and public hearings, please see our budget section.

All budget review meetings are open to the public:

Finance Committee Review of Accounts 100, 200, 400, 500, 600-635, 710
Tuesday, March 21, 2017 - Lower Level Conference Room, Town Hall
7:00 p.m.
Finance Committee Review of Municipal 300 and 640-670 and Special Funds
Wednesday, March 22, 2017 - Lower Level Conference Room, Town Hall
7:00 p.m.
Regular Town Council Meeting Including Opportunity for Budget Public Comments 
Monday, April 10, 2017
7:00 p.m.
Finance Committee School Budget Presentation from School Board 7:00 p.m.
Tuesday, April 25, 2017 - Lower Level Conference Room, Town Hall
7:00 p.m.
Finance Committee Wrapup (if needed)
Wednesday, April 26, 2017 - Lower Level Conference Room, Town Hall
7:00 p.m.
Regular Town Council Meeting and Budget Public Hearing
Monday, May 8, 2017
7:00 p.m.
Special Town Council Meeting to Vote on the 2018 Budget
Monday, May 15
7:00 p.m.
Citizen Vote on Town Council Adopted School Budget
Tuesday, June 13
7:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m.