Camden taxpayers to see increase
Camden — Selectmen approved a municipal budget with a slightly more than 5 percent increase April 15 despite some concerns the increase might be too high.
"I'm very concerned about the tax rate increase," Selectman Don White said. " ... any tax increase isn't going to be met with smiling faces."
Selectman John French concurred with White and asked Town Manager Patricia Finnigan if using money from the town's surplus — estimated to have a balance of more than $3 million — would negatively impact that account.
"I don't want to mix apples and oranges," Finnigan said, adding there already is $150,000 from the surplus account included in the budget to offset the tax increase. She explained "apples" are expenditures and "oranges" are on the revenue side.
One selectman expressed concern about spending down the surplus account — Leonard Lookner.
"I don't think this is the proper time to be draining down resources," he said.
"But if you cut the budget, you cut services," French countered.
Selectmen ultimately approved the budget committee recommendations for municipal spending, which will be placed before voters during town meeting June 11.
If the budget is approved at town meeting with no changes, taxpayers will see an increase of about 30 cents per thousand of valuation, which translates to $30 for every $100,000 in property value. Finnigan noted the revaluation of the town is not yet complete so anticipating potential impact for individual taxpayers is difficult.
"The budget increase will always be the budget increase," she said, adding how it translates overall in relation to property values won't be known until the revaluation is complete. " ... Any increase is going to be a burden on taxpayers."
The total municipal budget is slightly more than $6.7 million — about $320,000 higher than last year — and does not include numbers from the school districts. Finnigan cited increases due to the first payment on the $2 million Ragged Mountain Redevelopment bond approved by voters in the fall as well as a nearly 8 percent increase in water rates from Maine Water Co. She said the Budget Committee made $57,000 in cuts to the budget before the Select Board but added $50,000 toward road improvements because "that is a priority."
Selectmen agreed many town roads are in good condition but additional money is always good to have on hand for emergency repairs. Public Works Director Rick Seibel has a computer program that tracks road condition, French noted. There was some concern about the money not being designated for a specific purpose but the amount was approved as part of the whole budget.
"We'd love to go out there and say we're going to start at this end of the road and keep going," French said.
Selectman Jim Heard requested an opportunity be scheduled to allow discussion regarding how town roads are built as well.
"If we build the road right, we don't have to spend as much to maintain it," he said, adding the Public Works Department has done a good job rebuilding roads in the past.
Residents with questions about the budget may direct them to the Town Office by calling 236-3353. Budget documents are also available online at camdenmaine.gov.
Courier Publications Editor Stephanie Grinnell can be reached at 236-8511 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.