Bethel budget proposes 9.4 percent tax increase
Bethel residents will consider a $3.6 million municipal budget at the June 12 town meeting.
The proposed FY’14 budget, if approved, would raise the Bethel tax rate by an estimated 9.4 percent.
The budget was easily passed by the selectboard in March, while the Budget Committee narrowly voted in favor. Under the plan, the current mil rate of 11.65 would rise to an estimated 12.74.
The proposed municipal expenditure (not including SAD 44 share) is $3,620,099, a 7.7 percent increase over the current amount ($40,000 is attributable to private donations for a proposed dog park).
Most of the increase is due to capital spending for road improvement projects.
The $815,000 capital budget represents a $293,306 increase over FY’13. The increase is driven in large part by deferred maintenance on town roads.
The FY’14 operating budget would drop.
Revenue sharing, Undesignated fund
Town Manager Jim Doar’s original proposal would not have used money from the town’s undesignated fund balance to lower the tax rate, as has been done in past years.
He based his reasoning on Gov. Paul LePage’s proposal to cut state revenue sharing and homestead exemption reimbursements.
Because there has been resistance to the governor’s plan in the Legislature, Doar recommended the town budget for receiving that revenue, but still provide a financial safety net by not using undesignated funds to lower the tax rate.
If the town did not receive the state funds, he said, it would have the same effect as using $170,000 of undesignated funds.
But the Budget Committee and selectmen decided instead to recommend taking $100,000 from undesignated funds to reduce taxes. There was $1.1 million in the undesignated account at the end of FY’12, Doar said, and $258,000 was used in FY’13 to lower the tax rate.
The committee and selectmen also recommended flat-funding most requests from community organizations that seek money each year from the town, including one for MollyOckett Day that would have increased the contribution by three-fold, to $3,000.
The proposed budget also includes $25,000 to be set aside for future improvements to the Cole Block/Odeon Hall, where the town office is located.
The town plans five years into the future for road improvements, but projects have been put off, Doar said.
The major road projects proposed this year include $169,500 to grind and repave a mile of the Flat Road; $73,850 to install drainage on Chapman Street; $60,000 to change the elevation/replace the sidewalk on Chapman Street; $46,650 to resurface Chapman Street; $64,400 to pave .63 mile on the Bailey Road; $58,600 to overlay 3,480 feet of the Bird Hill Road; $36,000 to shim and surface 1,950 feet of Sunset Lane; $23,000 for the Meadowbrook Bridge Road; and $20,000 for various culvert replacements.
Also proposed is $40,000 to purchase a new snowblower.
Under other money items, two percent raises are proposed for town employees.
Voters will also be asked to ratify the actions of estimated overdrafts totaling $17,800. Of that, $10,000 was in Administration for items including Bingham Forest, a celebration for poet Richard Blanco, and legal and sign ordinance committee expenses, Doar said. Another $5,800 came under Planning and Development, some of that staff time for the sign committee, he said.
Voters will also decide whether to add $2,000 to the Local Contributions article for Independence Day fireworks. Doar said the town had anticipated the event would be privately funded this year, but those arrangements fell through.
(Note: The town meeting takes place after the Citizen’s publishing deadline, so results will not appear in the June 13 print edition. Please see the Citizen website at www.bethelcitizen.com on June 13 for voting results on key issues.)