Murray’s 2018-2019 budget projects 38-cent bump in tax rate

Murray’s 2018-2019 budget projects 38-cent bump in tax rate

Local money to schools boosted by $1 million

CUMBERLAND – Mayor Bill Murray’s proposed 2018-2019 budget boosts funding to local schools by $1 million, while slightly reducing spending on the municipal side of the ledger.

The budget, which was set to be delivered to the Town Council Wednesday evening, May 16, includes savings in a number of new projected areas, according to officials.

“The budget I am presenting for the 2018-2019 year has covered many areas that will allow my team to continue to run our great town in a manner I have set forth since becoming mayor in 2015,” wrote Murray in a summary of his budget.

Areas of savings in the budget, many of which have been worked on for some time but are finally being realized, noted Finance Director Jason Parmelee, include:

• $160,000 from the conversion of streetlights to LEDs.

• $100,000 from hiring a new broker for health insurance.

• $45,000 from the expected merger of animal rescue services with Lincoln in July, among others.

The projected “flatlined” budget also maintains municipal services, said Murray.

The goal, said Murray, is to accomplish “exactly what I did last year” when the tax levy ended up lower at the end of the year than projected at the start of the year. Due to a number of potential cost savers within this year’s budget, which he declined to name, “I would say we have a very good shot of coming out in April lowering the anticipated levy increase and tax rate,” he said.

The budget as projected calls for a 38-cent tax increase per $1,000 of property value, or 2.45 percent overall, above the current tax rate of $15.42. It represents a decrease of $21,295 in the municipal services budget and a $35,144 decrease in debt service.

The mayor said he “tossed” the matter of school funding around for some time before deciding to boost money for education.

“My goal was to not hurt the taxpayers by what the schools were looking for,” he said.

The “reasonable number” he settled on was increasing the town’s contribution to the schools by about $1 million, less than the $1.7 million school officials had sought. The overall school budget would increase by $2.7 million when factoring in an increase in state aid.

The local appropriation to the schools is $44.45 million, a $871,609 (2 percent) increase over this year. The town is taking on school capital lease payments of $514,156, or an increase of $128,392, for a total combined increase to schools of $1 million even.

Murray said the schools are looking to hire some 18 teachers, and he hopes they use that $1 million to do so. He said he believes another increase to schools will help them toward a goal of becoming a top-five school system.

As proposed by Murray, the schools’ total share of the budget is now at 68.7 percent, compared to 25.3 percent for municipal and 6 percent for debt service.

Overall, the proposed general fund budget for 2018-2019 has increased by $2.63 million, or 2.73 percent.

Due to the town’s unsynchronized budgets, the budget proposal projected this spring does not set the tax rates. Based on what happens over the coming year, town officials will determine the final levy and tax rates next spring. This year’s tax rate increase, based on Murray’s controversial lowering of the tax levy, or overall amount collected in taxes, was 21 cents, causing consternation among those elected officials who want to see the town make greater investments in its amenities.

Murray’s budget fully funds the annual required contributions to police pensions, state pensions, and other post-employment benefits. The town has made “big, big strides” with its pension plan, he said, bringing it from 18 percent funded to 58 percent funded.

Due to Cumberland’s unsynchronized tax system, the town lost some $735,000 in car taxes, said Murray. The town is appropriating $1.48 million in surplus funds for one-time, non-recurring expenses in the budget, as well as a loss of car tax revenue.

Murray said he’s happy to continue improving services while keeping taxes low. As an example of improved services, he noted the changes to the town’s trash contract allowing residents to dispose of yard waste more conveniently and said the service will be enhanced further when the highway department moves to the former Pascale property and composting operations can be moved there this year.

The mayor emphasized that over four previous tax levies, the town’s tax rate has gone up 21 cents, or about 5 cents each year.

Comments

Thank you Mayor for not raising our taxes like your Council wants to do. Their motto is just spend - spend - spend. You are being fair and fiscally responsible.

From a taxpayer who appreciates it.

Ha! 5 cents each year?? This mayor is on track to spend $6.3MM dollars of the Town’s reserves during his tenure – nearly half of the bank account built over the years. All while claiming fiscal responsibility by keeping taxes low. If the $1.6M average yearly spend was added to the “low” tax increases he touts, the resulting increases would exceed the 4% tax cap. His fiscal responsibility is a farce. His short-term thinking doesn’t bode well for the future of the Town. These actions show that he is not worried about the future. Long-term planning has never been the forte of the keepers of the status quo.
Time to go....