Friday, April 18, 2014
By Kaitlin Schroeder firstname.lastname@example.org
FARMINGTON — Selectmen and budget committee members are considering a $5.05 million budget, up 2.5 percent from last year’s $4.92 million budget.
Budget committee members will be reviewing the proposals for the next two weeks before making a final recommendation to voters on Jan. 22. The final budget will be approved by voters at the annual Town Meeting on March 24.
Farmington Town Manager Richard Davis said this will be the toughest budget cycle he has seen in 30 years, primarily because of cuts in the state’s revenue sharing program that used to share 5 percent of Maine’s sales tax revenues with local communities.
Farmington is facing a $190,305 cut from municipal revenue sharing in the 2014 fiscal year, according to the Maine Municipal Association.
Davis said for now he is projecting getting $363,489 in revenue sharing, but won’t know an exact amount until this legislative session is complete.
“If they approve taking more, then that number could change,” he said. “All I can do at this point is estimate what they might do and join with other municipal officials on these issues to be heard.”
Davis said the town has been shortchanged in past years in state revenue sharing, including last year when the town predicted it would receive $534,413 in shared revenue.
“However, we only received $479,000 so that was a decrease of over $44,000,” he said.
Within the overall proposed budget, the fire department requested a 30 percent increase in its budget in order to increase scheduled staff. The proposal calls to increase staffing from two people per day five days a week to four people working day and night shifts seven days a week.
Fire Chief Terry Bell said the department has lost 18 volunteer firefighters in the past five years, reducing its roster to 25, and more scheduled staff is needed to ensure there are enough workers.
The police department proposed slightly increasing its budget to $1.19 million, up 1.7 percent from the previous year. The budget proposes increasing wages by 1.56 percent to adjust for the increased cost of living.
The Parks and Recreation budget proposes increasing stipends for coaches from $2,400 to $2,700. The 12.5 percent increase, if approved, would be the first increase in stipends in 10 years. The total budget is $153,002, down 7.3 percent from 2013.
The town’s $13,968 contract with Sandy River Recycling was cut from the budget after selectmen unanimously voted to discontinue the contract with the nonprofit and switch to contracting with Archie’s Inc. The nearby Mexico-based company offered to take over recycling in return for the revenue collected from recyclables.
The town’s property tax rate is $15.75 per $1,000 of valuation, down 5 percent from last year because town property was revalued at a higher rate.
Selectmen previously voted 3-2 to remove the option of funding the American Red Cross and Safe Voices. Chairman Ryan Morgan advised the nonprofit groups to ask the county for money instead of the town.Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252 email@example.com