March 13, 2012

School costs may require tax increase in Falmouth

The municipal budget holds the line, but a new building and higher enrollment and salaries will add to school spending

By Kelley Bouchard
Staff Writer

FALMOUTH — The cost of running town government and services would increase 3 percent in the coming fiscal year but leave the tax rate unchanged, under the 2012-13 budget proposal released Monday by Town Manager Nathan Poore.


TOWN MANAGER Nathan Poore will present the municipal budget to the Town Council's Finance Committee at 3 p.m. today in the large conference room at Town Hall.

SUPERINTENDENT Barbara Powers will deliver the school budget during a School Board workshop starting at noon Friday in the council chamber at Town Hall.

THE TWO BOARDS will hold a joint budget meeting at 3 p.m. March 27 in the council chamber.

A PUBLIC HEARING on both budgets will be held April 11, followed by a council vote on April 23 and a townwide referendum on the school budget June 12.

That's a good thing, town officials said, because the school budget Superintendent Barbara Powers will present on Friday promises to call for a significant tax increase to cover rising enrollment, elementary-level spending and cost-of-living pay.

The $11 million municipal budget proposed for the fiscal year starting July 1 includes a nearly $319,000 increase driven by employees' wages, fuel prices, retirement benefits and professional fees, Poore said.

Those spending increases would be covered by other, modest spending reductions and by revenue increases, including in automobile excise taxes ($239,000), cable franchise fees ($35,000) and property taxes ($52,000).

"We're happy to be coming in for the fourth year in a row without a tax-rate increase," Poore said. "And we're not adding or cutting any services, so this is a sustainable budget."

Poore said he and other town administrators developed the municipal budget proposal without dipping into the town's reserve funds.

The cost of wages and benefits for municipal workers will increase 2.2 percent, to nearly $5.3 million, Poore said.

Poore has requested an additional $30,000 to cover projected fuel-cost increases for town buildings and vehicles. And library trustees requested $399,278 from the town, which is $19,013 -- 5 percent -- more than the current budget, Poore said.

The town's total property valuation of more than $2.1 billion is expected to increase by $16 million, largely because of new construction and lot subdivisions, Poore said.

Falmouth's current tax rate is $12.92 per $1,000 of property value, which works out to $3,876 on a $300,000 home.

The municipal share of the tax rate would hold steady at $3, Poore said. The school's share is $9.36 and the county's share is 56 cents, according to the town's website.

Powers declined to discuss the school district's potential impact on the tax rate before her budget presentation on Friday. The school budget increased from $24.6 million in 2010-11 to $26.2 million this year and added 55 cents to the tax rate.

In preparing the 2012-13 budget, the district faces a $530,000 revenue reduction because federal jobs-bill money runs out with the current budget.

The town's state education aid is expected to increase $1.9 million, to $7.5 million. That's because the town's total property valuation dropped slightly last year and its school enrollment has increased 2.5 percent, from 2,101 students to 2,155 students.

However, $1.6 million of the state-aid allocation will go to debt payments on Falmouth Elementary School, which opened last fall.

"We're simply trying to respond to enrollment demands and costs associated with operating the new school," Powers said.

Also, school employees will get negotiated 2.25 percent cost-of-living increases, after getting a 1 percent increase and no increase in the last two years, Powers said.

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:


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