YARMOUTH — Town Manager Nat Tupper tweaked the preliminary fiscal 2010 budget and will present a revised version in April that includes decreases in both municipal spending and revenues while increasing the property tax rate by nearly 1.9 percent.

Although the school budget has not yet been approved by the Town Council and is expected to be presented on April 2 at 7 p.m., Tupper said the School Committee agreed to reduce an additional $130,000 from its preliminary budget. According to Tupper, the council is hoping to approve a school budget with a less than 2 percent increase.

The revised town budget indicates the property tax rate would increase 36 cents, or 1.87 percent, up to $19.53 per $1,000 of assessed value.

Municipal expenditures are proposed to be $110,000 less than this year, a 1 percent reduction in spending. Tupper said this was achieved by making cuts to capital reserves, renegotiating police contracts and removing two dispatch employees who were over-budgeted from this year. Tupper said about $300,000 from capital reserves will be moved to the operating budget in case a referendum to reduce the vehicle excise tax passes in November, which would reduce Yarmouth’s tax revenue by up to $600,000.

He said the Police Department signed new contracts, reducing a negotiated 3.25 percent wage increase to zero percent, with adjustments made to retirement plans. He also said a $100,000 savings could be realized by reducing the number of dispatch employees.

“We had the option to budget for five or seven (dispatch) employees and went with seven, (then) Cumberland left for Cumberland County dispatch, and we never added Freeport,” he said.

While Tupper said the town will continue to take applications for the septic subsidy program, he said the council will not add additional money into the account until further notice. He also said there will be savings by locking in at a lower than expected fuel cost.

“We didn’t reduce any hours of operation, and kept our programming,” he said.

Although the harbormaster will be reduced to a seasonal position, a shift in the Police Department will prevent any job cuts. 

On the revenue side, Tupper said taking $625,000 from surplus to reduce taxes pulled the fund balance down more than he liked, but with a positive review from bond rating agency Moody’s, he said he felt comfortable with the action.

“There is a significant decline in the revenues overall, but we make up for it by going into the fund balance,” he said. “You can’t hold a rainy day fund when it’s pouring.”

The Town Council is expected to hold a workshop with the School Committee on Thursday, April 2, and the first public hearing on the combined school and municipal budget will be Thursday, April 9, at 7 p.m. in the Log Cabin on Main Street.

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110, or [email protected]

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