RICHMOND

Thanks in part to a large chunk of retiring debt Richmond has coming off the books, town officials expect to be able to offset an increase in local spending for school costs in its proposed $ 2.1 million spending plan and for residents to see a 1.7 percent tax rate decrease in 2015-16.

Town Manager Janet Smith said she and departments “zero-budgeted” in developing this proposed spending play for next fiscal year, building it from the ground up based on what they need in each department rather than starting with last year’s expenditures, so “we justified everything.”

That proposed budget will go before voters at the annual town meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Richmond High School.

The town has payments for a $ 1.2 million loan expiring, which results in a $265,096 reduction in the proposed municipal spending plan for 2015- 16. The debt payments will reduce a total of $300,661.

The town is looking to spend $200,000 on road projects which would likely become part of the capital outlay budget. Voters will decide through Article 32 if they want to appropriate $200,000 to pave portions of dirt roads including Stable, Parks, Knickerbocker and Week roads, and Lincoln and Spruce streets.

Smith said the town wants to start doing some needed road projects when it can still see a reduction in the tax rate.

“If we use that $200,000 and start doing that road work, every year we can use that $200,000 and not have it spike the taxes and keep taxes on a more even keel,” she said, “because eventually, if you don’t, there will come a time when you have to spend mega dollars ( with a bond).”

The town hasn’t had a road plan, so the public works director will start putting together a capital plan and all departments plan to be looking at future needs to eventually develop a townwide capital improvement plan, said Smith.

The proposed municipal spending plan for 2015-16 is $2,144,426 — a decrease of 7.6 percent and includes the operating and non-departmental budgets combined and the passage of two articles for social services appearing on the warrant through the petition process. The town’s share of education costs for Regional School Unit 2 is increasing an estimated $137,363 and its share paid to Sagadahoc County is expected to drop $15,574. The municipal, county and school spending combined is expected to decrease the current tax rate of $19.30 per $1,000 of assessed value to $19 per $1,000 of assessed value, a decrease of $0.30 per $1,000, or 1.7 percent.

Smith noted these are worst-case estimates until the town knows exactly what its new value increases are, which determine how costs are divided. With the Family Dollar store and new homes and garages, new value is anticipated.

Under the estimated $19 per $ 1,000 tax rate, the owner of an average Richmond home assessed at $139,000 would see a tax bill of $2,641 — a decrease of $41.70.

Richmond residents will again consider raising and appropriating $5,000 for the Friends of the Cobbossee Watershed Mil-Foiler Program. The town’s intergovernmental line is increasing a proposed $5,110 or 100 percent for the New Mills Dam, which creates Pleasant Pond. Smith said the town is a co-owner of the dam with Litchfield and Gardiner. The towns paid $10,000 collectively over 10 years until about 2010. This year, however, the dam required about $70,000 of repairs that started to deplete the maintenance reserve.

Article 22 is a new article that would create several reserve accounts totaling $75,000. Article 21 seeks to raise and appropriate $1,500 to create a reserve account for the purchase of fire department equipment and Article 31 asks voters to appropriate up to $16,000 for roofing and shingles on the Myrtle Street fire station.

Article 20 and 30 were placed on the warrant through the petition process. The first seeks $ 2,685 for the Midcoast Maine Community Action services and the second requests $995 to help defray costs of New Hope for Women.

Smith noted that the town won’t always be able to offset spending increases as it has in the 2015-16 budget, given the retirement of a large amount of debt and a decrease in capital outlay provided the opportunity for a tax decrease. It has been a good budget process, she said.

“The department heads really worked hard,” said Smith. “ They really did well and they were looking at everything. I’m happy with what we went to the budget committee and selectmen with.”

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