BELGRADE — The proposed municipal operating budget contained in the warrant for Town Meeting next weekend reflects a decrease in town spending, but also a likely tax increase because of other costs.
While voters will weigh in on a few issues on the ballot Friday, the bulk of the business takes place Saturday, March 18 beginning at 1 p.m. at the Belgrade Community Center for All Seasons.
The town is looking at a $4.55 million municipal operating budget. While no budget projections have been received yet from Regional School Unit 18, the Messalonskee and China Schools, Town Manager Carrie Castonguay said she estimated a 5 percent increase, which would bring it to about $6.2 million.
The Kennebec County tax is expected to go up as well; she estimated that at $626,000.
The town also has to account for $2.5 million in debt service.
The town’s current tax rate is $14 per $1,000 worth of assessed property value, and Castonguay anticipates that could increase to $14.75 or $15 per $1,000 if the costs come in as projected.
The big-ticket items up for vote on Saturday are almost $470,000 requested for town offices and administrative activities, including wages and benefits; almost $251,000 for public safety, which includes money for a full-time emergency medical technician/paramedic Monday through Friday; and $446,000 for public works, including winter plowing and sanding.
The town also anticipates spending $250,000 for solid waste operations.
Castonguay said the municipal budget is about $87,000 lower than the current year’s spending plan.
“We found efficiencies,” she said. Part of that is spending less on certain town employee posts than in the previous year.
She said there are some wage increases for library and recreation staff members that reflect the mandatory statewide increase in minimum wages, plus a new $199 internet fee charged by the Maine School and Library Network.
“Unfortunately, even though the municipal budget is down, I do anticipate (the tax rate) going up because of the county tax commitment and the school appropriation,” Castonguay said. “It’s a difficult position to be in.”
She also said that comparing figures from 2016 with those proposed for 2017 will be difficult because the town has adopted a new accounting system based on its auditor’s recommendations.
For instance, money for town facilities and cemeteries is now listed separately from public works.
“We tried to put all the physical structures, including dams, fire stations, community centers, Town Office and parks under facilities,” she said.
The Recreation Department budget now includes programming.
“We really tried to be transparent,” she said, suggesting that people with questions about the budget or the warrant articles — which are listed in the 2016 Town of Belgrade Annual Report and on the town’s website — call her at the Town Office.
Betty Adams — 621-5631