April 30, 2013

Skowhegan selectmen push forward $8.8M budget

By Doug Harlow dharlow@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

SKOWHEGAN -- Selectmen on Tuesday night settled on a recommended $8,815,828 spending package for 2013-14 to take to voters June 10 at the annual Town Meeting.

The amount is about $46,000 less than the current budget total, but the amount to be raised from taxation is up slightly because of a drop in operational revenue and less money being taken from surplus in this year’s proposed budget. Revenue in the coming year is anticipated to be about $1.61 million, down from $1.67 million in the current budget.

In recent weeks, the board examined initial department requests totaling $9,162,000 for the coming year, including written petitions from various service organizations. They also looked at the $9,064,871 budget approved by Town Manager John Doucette Jr., as well as their own budget ideas.

The highest amount the board can take to the Town Meeting comes in at $8,890,018 -- the worst-case scenario -- which includes all petition amounts and anything that the Budget Committee voted on that was higher than what selectmen recommended, town finance officer Christine Almand said.

The budget document does not contain final spending recommendations from the Budget Committee because that board could not reach a quorum for several budget sessions and its meetings had to be canceled. An article on the Town Meeting warrant calls for disbanding the Budget Committee because of lack of participation.

Almand said selectmen tried to keep spending -- and taxes -- down in the coming year in part by reducing the amount to be set aside for capital reserve accounts for future equipment purchases and repairs. The reserve account is about $176,000 lower than in the current budget, which was approved at the 2012 Town Meeting.

Voters at the annual meeting last June approved a spending package of $8,861,901, which was about $540,000 more than the previous year’s.

Included in the spending that will go to voters next month is a proposal to take $700,000 from surplus to offset taxes in the coming year. The current tax rate is $16.20 for every $1,000 in property valuation, Almand said.

Almand said the town has $3,650,372 in available surplus, based on 10 percent of the total budget in the current year for town, schools and county spending. The recommended surplus is about $2 million, which left the board with considerable room to make their choice.

Almand also cautioned that final budget figures will not be known until matters of state revenue sharing and the homestead exemption are worked out with the governor’s office.

Doug Harlow -- 612-2367

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