Bridgton Town Manager Mitchell Berkowitz has submitted his manager’s proposal for the 2008-09 town budget, which totals $13.9 million and includes the final payments on the town hall, which was built in 1985.

Berkowitz said he expects the proposed budget will be approved at the April 22 meeting of the Bridgton Board of Selectmen. It will then need to be approved by the public at the annual town meeting June 11. The entire budget is up 6 percent from the current budget.

Berkowitz said the last $67,795 owed for the town hall construction is the only long-term debt the town has to pay off in the 2009 fiscal year. The town paid $134,533 in debt for the same project this current year and Berkowitz said the amount proposed for next year is half of that because that is all there is left to pay.

“Once it’s paid, there is no other long term debt,” he said.

The mil rate, the property tax Bridgton residents pay for each $1,000 their home is worth, is estimated at $12.37, up from $11.45 last year. Berkowitz said there are a number of factors that determined this number.

Of the increase, Berkowitz said only 10 cents of it is because of the town budget. He said 5 cents of the mil rate increase is for Cumberland County and the remaining 77 cent increase is because of School Administrative District 61, which will receive $2.4 million less in state subsidies next year and only cut $979,000 from its proposed budget.

That $1.5 million dollar gap will be paid for by property taxes from Bridgton, Casco, Naples and Sebago.

With a $12.37 mill rate, the owner of a $250,000 house would pay more than $3,000 in taxes.

The public safety costs are slated to be increased by 6.75 percent, which is on par with the total budget. Berkowitz said some public safety costs were shaved down, such as fire hydrants and ambulance services, to make room for a one-third increase in dispatch salaries.

“Dispatch and police departments are in the same union contract,” said Berkowitz. Salaries paid to dispatchers are written to increase from $189,000 to $253,000 and Berkowitz said there are no additional dispatchers being hired.

Animal control costs are written to be reduced from $14,000 to $12,000 and Berkowitz said this is because there have been less calls for animal services from the public.

Vehicle maintenance and general costs in the public works department are proposed to increase by around 15 percent. Berkowitz said this is because the costs of sand, salt and gravel for roads have increased, along with the electricity to run the garage and the metal in the parts used to repair vehicles, along with diesel and gasoline.

Berkowitz said money was saved in the capital investments costs by reducing the number of new pistols being purchased for the police department and eliminating pepper spray. Instead of purchasing 12 pistols for the police department, ten will be purchased and the two part-time officers will use existing firearms.

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