Special town meeting seeks $135,000 to offset taxes

By Stephanie Grinnell | Sep 24, 2013

Camden — A special town meeting Sept. 26 will ask residents to decide if they want to spend $135,000 from the undesignated fund balance to help offset a property tax increase.

The meeting will take place at 6:30 p.m. in the Washington Street conference room and will be an open floor vote.

Voters previously approved a more than $6.5 million municipal budget — an increase of less than 2 percent — as well as school and county budgets, which increased 3.7 percent and 4.5 percent respectively.

Town Manager Patricia Finnigan said the town will receive less in state revenue sharing funds than anticipated. The school district also saw a reduction in state aid, she said. In addition, flat revenues from licenses and permit fees as well as stagnant property valuations have contributed to the tax increase, Finnigan said.

"A tax increase is necessary due primarily to the reduction in state aid to communities, including Camden," she said in an email. " ... This year, the governor proposed to eliminate revenue sharing. The Legislature did not eliminate revenue sharing, but they did cut it in order to balance the state budget. Camden will be receiving about $135,000 less this year than we expected to receive."

During a meeting Sept. 17, selectmen debated the merits of using money from the town's undesignated fund balance to offset the anticipated property tax increase and ultimately decided to set a special town meeting.

"If the voters approve $135,000 from the fund balance, the tax rate would still have to increase, but the increase would be less (about $14.05 rather than $14.16)," Finnigan wrote.

The owner of a $250,000 home would see an increase of $92.50 on their property tax bill at the mil rate of $14.05; at $14.16, the same homeowner would see an increase of $120, according to Finnigan.

Currently, Camden's mil rate is $13.68.

Selectmen also are anticipated to approve a smaller overlay in the budget than in previous years, she said. The town usually includes about $100,000 in the budget as an overlay, which is used to make up for approved property tax abatements, Finnigan said. Last year, about $800 in abatements were approved, she said.

"Having a small overlay did not seem an unreasonable thing to do," Finnigan said, adding consideration of the overlay also will take place Sept. 26 during the special town meeting.

Courier Publications Editor Stephanie Grinnell can be reached at 236-8511 or email at sgrinnell@courierpublicationsllc.com.

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