2016-02-12 / Front Page

Budget up less than 1 percent

By Wm. Duke Harrington Staff Writer

KENNEBUNK — The new budget in Kennebunk appears to hinge on new hires and roads.

Under the annual budget proposal presented by Town Manager Barry Tibbetts on Feb. 2, gross spending is up 0.75 percent to $11.93 million. However, net town spending, after revenues, is up 2.08 percent, to $7.83 million.

That would mean an increase in the mil rate of 7 cents per $1,000 of property valuation. However, assuming the use of $100,000 taken from the town’s $7.72 million undesignated surplus fund to help offset taxes, and no change in municipal revenue sharing dollars from the state, the net budget increase falls to 0.78 percent, while the mil would only increase 2 cents per $1,000 of property valuation.

But that increase rises to 11 cents per $1,000 if selectmen and budget board members approve Tibbetts’ request to hire two new firefighters and one truck driver. That pushes the annual budget up 5.01 percent, to $8.06 million – or, with the $100,000 offset, up 3.71 percent, to $7.96 million.

Although he presented two sets of numbers, Tibbetts was clear which version be thought selectmen and budget board members should get behind.

“My recommendation, I think you should hire the three new employees,” he said. “I lay my cards right out on the table and I think we need the manpower.”

However, Tibbetts said he presented a budget without those new hires, to give town leaders an idea of how much it would cost, “to just do what we are doing now.” Even so, budget board member Peter Marshall seemed unimpressed.

“I call that equivocation,” he said.

Both calculations, with and without the new hires, are based on municipal services only, and do not account for any tax increase related to the school budget, or taxes paid to York County.

There is also on the horizon a 16-cent increase per $1,000 of property valuation, driven by Tibbetts’ request for a $2.39 million bond to pay for road paving projects, as well as a new ambulance and public works truck. However, that impact would not be felt on property tax bills until the 2017-2018 budget year, Tibbetts said.

Baked into the budget is a 3.2 percent assumed increase in revenues, including the expectation of an extra $75,000 in vehicle excise taxes, $25,000 in beach parking permits and $29,000 in miscellaneous fees.

Expenses are projected to rise 1.6 percent overall (not counting the three potential new fire department and public works employees) based on contractual obligations, an average 1.5 percent wage increase for town employees, totaling $85,000, and two new part-time summer employees, at a cost of $24,000. Also, health insurance costs are up $17,000, while the library budget is up $11,000 and the recreation budget is up $44,000, although some of the latter will be offset by program fees.

Tibbetts also has proposed a three-year $5.3 million program to upgrade and maintain roads in town. That plan includes bonding $2 million in work to be done during the coming budget year, although, again, those bond payments would not come due until the following season.

However, much of that work is focused on keeping roads from deteriorating further. It does not include full rebuilds of very poor condition roads, or reconstruction of road bases. It also does not include amenities like sidewalks, streetlights and granite curbing, Tibbetts said.

“I didn’t run the numbers that way, to be honest with you,” he said. “I ran the numbers to replace what is there as best as possible within the limits of the total dollars we had.”

Following three budget review sessions, on Feb. 2, 4 and 6, selectmen were scheduled to meet one final time with budget board members on Thursday, Feb. 11. That meeting took place after the deadline for this week’s Post. Tentative meetings also are scheduled, if work is not wrapped up at the final session, for Feb. 13 and 16.

Public hearings on the proposed budget will be held during selectmen’s meetings on April 26 and May 24. Selectmen are expected to sign the warrant for this year’s annual town meeting on May 10.

Voting on the 2016-2017 municipal budget will take place on Tuesday, June 14, with absentee ballots available starting on Friday, May 16.

Staff Writer Wm. Duke Harrington can be reached at news@kennebunkpost.com.

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