Waldoboro proposes 3.62 percent increased budget

$3.8 million budget proposed
By Beth A. Birmingham | Mar 15, 2013
Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham Waldoboro Town Manager John Spear gives an overview to the proposed 3.62 percent increased budget to the budget committee and board of selectmen March 12.

Waldoboro — "I've attempted to be realistic," said Town Manager John Spear in his overview of the preliminary $3,773,009 budget for 2014.

Spear met with the board of selectmen and budget committee in a joint meeting March 12.

The proposed budget was released a full two weeks in advance of when the groups are scheduled to hold review meetings, scheduled for Tuesday, March 26, Thursday, March 28 and Tuesday, April 2 to make further adjustments prior to its finalization Tuesday, April 9.

The 3.62 percent increase or $131,659 from 2013 is affected greatly by the Emergency Management Systems, which Spear said is one-third of the increase. However, he also said that amount was nearly offset by the projected $43,000 or 8 percent revenue increase the EMS should realize in 2014.

"What a difference a year makes," Spear said about the service success of the EMS.

The proposed non-property tax revenues is budgeted at $1,947,442, an increase of $32,087 or 1.68 percent.

"This results in property tax revenues being budgeted at $1,825,5667, an increase of $99,572 or 5.77 percent," Spear wrote in his overview report.

This amount is $54,087 over the property tax limit, or LD 1, meaning a voter override will be needed.

"LD 1 allows for increases in the budget based on economic growth and so forth," said budget committee member Duncan Morrell. "So your people who work here are allowed to have an increase if the economy is increasing, if real estate is increasing, if population growth is increasing."

"So you have $54,000 override, so I have to assume there was some massive snow storm or a furnace blew up or emergency that caused this," Morrell said.

"I don't believe that is the case, after sitting through a few of these. What it is is we're going to circumvent the law and put this budget on the table with this override intact. No emergency. No explanation. And if the people sucker for it, then it's in. And I'm tired of it," said Morrell.

"So I don't want an explanation tonight, but we are going to deal with it. I want to know where the $54,000 emergency was. You can't just give everyone a 3 percent increase, call it an LD 1 override just because they feel they need an increase in pay or wherever this comes from. You can't do it," Morrell concluded.

"I have no intention of circumventing the law," Spear said. "And 2.5 quickly became 3.0," referring to the proposed pay increase for some employees. "But nobody asked for anything," Spear said.

"Salaries and wages for regular employees are budgeted at a 2.5 percent increase. This results in an approximate $28,000 increase in the budget," Spear said.

"Wage increases of 2.5 percent are proposed for several other, but not all, part-time and/or non-permanent employee classifications," he said.

Two adjustments exceeded the 2.5 percent increase: adding part-time EMS staff and assistant code enforcement officer.

Other staff adjustments that continue from last year include cutting the town manager workdays to 250 days, for $2,500 savings; giving the safety secretary position more of a wide array of duties; and decreasing the assessor's agent, code officer and assistant code officer hours.

With the recreation position in flux due to the YMCA project, Spear said he believes they came up with a creative solution.

The hours for the position were cut from 40 to 36, for a savings of $4,200 and the director will be doubling the 10-hour shifts assisting the EMS, resulting in 1,040 hours being able to be cut from the EMA budget of about $13,500.

A second part-time shellfish warden was added in 2013, and was budgeted for 2014 as the shellfish harvest continues to increase.

The overall proposed increase was a far cry from the 10.7 percent that resulted from the first aggregation from all the departmental requests that Spear actually received, he said.

"I reduced the capital requests," Spear said. "I think that a lot of those decisions were made based on political reasons and I'm concerned."

"I fear this budget will fall far short of the goals," Spear said, "due to the governor's revenue sharing proposal."

"The governor's budget proposal will significantly impact changes not rolled into this proposal," Spear said.

"Revenue sharing and excise taxes are assumed based on current law. These revenue items have not been adjusted to comport with the governor's state budget proposal," Spear said in his overview.

"If the governor's budget proposal was to be enacted as proposed, it would result in a revenue loss for these two items of approximately $345,000, or about 10 percent less of the proposed budget," Spear said.

"Suffice it to say, it's significant," Spear said.

"You're going to be hearing a lot about the revenue sharing topic," Spear said. There are public hearings going on in Augusta this week. Sen. Chris Johnson, D-Somerville will be holding a meeting in Waldoboro March 18.

"Timing is complicated as Legislature quite possibly won't finalize anything until June," Spear said.

Eliminating the circuit breaker program will have a great impact. "There were 385 refunds, averaging $498 each last year," Spear said.

It is proposed to use $13,764 remaining in the AD Gray service account to reduce taxes.

In his final comment on the revenue budget, Spear said the proposal to continue to grow the fund balance and not use it to reduce taxes remains in tact. He reported that an audit for the anticipated June 30, 2013 balance was $386,435 which is up from the low point of $59,642 from 2012.

"We seem to be headed in the right direction," he said.

At the time the proposed budget was released March 12, the School Administrative District 40 and Lincoln County tax assessment amounts for Waldoboro had not been finalized.

"Preliminary information indicates that reductions in state school aid should be anticipated," Spear said in his overview.

"Reducing costs without eliminating services is not realistic," Spear said. However, "expenditure amounts proposed were an attempt to provide programs and services generally consistent with current levels."

The operating budget, non-personnel, is proposed at about $10,000 less than last year.

The capital budget is down $34,000 from 2013.

A mil rate has been proposed. Last year's was $13.50 per $1,000 of property valuation.

Budget committee member John Higgins requested that in addition to a copy of the proposed budget and his summary notes, Spear include a copy of the needs from the department heads.

Waldoboro's annual town meeting, by referendum, is scheduled for Tuesday, June 11.

Courier Publications reporter Beth Birmingham can be reached at 594-4401 or by email at bbirmingham@courierpublicationsllc.com.

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