Sunday, March 9, 2014
FREEPORT – Town Manager Peter Joseph proposed a $4.85 million town budget Tuesday that would largely maintain funding for municipal services while accounting for increased costs for athletic field maintenance and the operation of Freeport's train station.
In this Dec. 19, 2012 file photo, Downeaster conductor Chuck Moyer, left, helps passenger, Jean Townsend, who lives in Naples Forida, as she departs the train in Freeport to visit her children for Christmas. Town Manager Peter Joseph proposed a $4.85 million town budget Tuesday, April 23, 2013 that would largely maintain funding for municipal services while accounting for increased costs for the operation of Freeport's train station.
Gordon Chibroski / Staff Photographer
The largest increase in the budget proposed for the year that starts July 1 is for maintenance of the train station on the Downeaster line connecting Boston and Brunswick, which is projected to cost $102,450 in its first full year of operation. An additional $84,000 is planned to maintain recreational fields at Hunter Road.
The town's operating budget would increase $69,000 over the current fiscal year.
But still unknown is the impact of state budget proposals by Gov. Paul LePage that would eliminate about $850,000 in state revenue for Freeport, including about $500,00 in municipal revenue sharing.
Joseph, like other municipal officials who have objected to the elimination of state revenue streams, has not factored the reductions into his budget.
"I do not expect (LePage's) proposal to be passed," he said in an interview Tuesday before the Town Council meeting at which he proposed the budget.
Still, even a smaller reduction from the state would require a re-evaluation of the entire budget, and could force an increase in property taxes or cuts to services.
"That may be something we have to deal with in the middle of the summer," Joseph said.
Freeport's charter calls for the Town Council to decide how to deal with unexpected revenue shortfalls outside of the traditional budget process.
If current tax projections hold true for Cumberland County and Regional School Unit 5 -- which covers Freeport, Durham and Pownal -- property owners in Freeport will see their taxes increase. The town's tax rate, now $15.45 per $1,000 valuation, would increase to $15.80, according to figures provided by the town.
For a home worth $300,000, that means a $105 increase and a tax bill of $4,740.
The RSU 5 budget, now estimated at $13.99 million, calls for a $355,664 increase from this year and factors a shift of 70 percent of teachers' retirement costs -- $188,336 -- from the state to the school district, as proposed by LePage.
The school budget will go to voters in a referendum on June 11.
"We're doing the best we can," said Town Councilor Richard DeGrandpre, who acknowledged the uncertainties about the state budget.
"Hopefully we'll have some of those answers before we approve our budget," he said.
Matt Byrne can be contacted at 791-6303 or at: