Proposed Rockport budget shows slight increase

Reflects salary increases, department spending
By Louis Bettcher | Mar 13, 2018

Rockport — An initial municipal budget for the 2018-2019 fiscal year, proposed by Town Manager Rick Bates, is $3,938,376. This total for the net municipal budget reflects an increase of 2.86 percent or approximately $110,000 over the previous year.

The budget estimates that revenues for the following year will increase by 21 percent, and that expenditures will increase by 9 percent. Bates said that he made cuts in the amount of $318,000 from department head requests in order for the budget to comply with LD1 conditions.

Rockport has also been in the process of renegotiating its contract with North East Mobile Health Services. While the terms of a new contract with NEMHS are still being negotiated, he says recommended changes in service my result in an increase to Rockport taxpayers between $63,000 and $70,000.

The budget also includes spending in the amount of $200,000 to perform construction work on the intersection of Russel Avenue and 1 Limerock Street to create parking space for the proposed Rockport Public Library. Residents will decide in June whether or not to approve the $3 million structure.

Over the past year, Rockport has increased its Unassigned Fund Balance by $222,642, which exceeds the mandatory 12 percent required. But the town's auditing firm, RHR Smith, recommends that the 12 percent does not provide adequate sustainability over the course of the year to sustain the town, should unexpected circumstances arise.

"Generally accepted practices recommended by our auditing firm suggest that we have between 60 and 90 days worth of expenses in the UFB. Given our cash flow analysis, we need a minimum of 60 days, which we are currently at," said Bates.

Some of the expenses requested by specific departments, which Bates recommends, include the cost of a computer server for the assessing department, estimated at $8,400. Bates also recommends the request by Assessor Kerry Liechtman, to spend $22,000 on orthoimagery or aerial photography.

Another recommended purchase is a generator for the town office; Bates suggests that the $30,000 piece of equipment be paid for in two portions -- $15,000 this fiscal year and $15,000 the next.

Areas in which the budget has been reduced include cutting the cost of audio visual equipment for the Rockport Opera House in the amount of $2,000 and a request for a lighting upgrade for broken lights on Goose River Bridge. Painting of fog lines on various town roads has also been removed, and the amount of money to be paid to purchase a police cruiser has been reduced by $13,000.

The proposed budget also reflects increases in the salaries of all department heads in Rockport. In a letter to the select board and the budget committee, Bates explained that results from a salary survey by the Maine Municipal Association showed that many of the town's non-union employees were underpaid.

"The approach I took was to establish a flat amount, in this case $10,000, and to use that amount to raise employee pay that was shown to be under the average, equitable, based on percentages," said Bates.

Bates said that a 3 percent increase was added to the salaries of all non-union employees, per their contract. The overall increase resulting from this change was $6,6000 versus no increase at all.

The heads of the finance department, Megan Brackett, and the Rockport Police Chief, Randy Gagne, see potential salary increases of 25 and 23 percent respectively. Gagne serves as Police Chief for Camden and Rockport.

Major department budgets are proposed as follows:

General government: $1,059,831, up approximately $3,000 or .3 percent. This includes town manager, town clerk, finance and assessing.

In total the public safety budget proposed is $277,053. This is up approximately $54,000 or 24 percent from the previous year and includes the Rockport police and fire departments as well as animal control.

Public works: $161,450, up approximately $54,000 or 50 percent.

Culture and recreation: $115,799, down approximately $4,000 or 4 percent. This included the Rockport Public Library and the Rockport Opera House.

Budget review workshops for various departments are being held throughout the remainder of the month at the Rockport Opera House. The select board is expected to vote on the proposed budget in April.

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