VOTERS AT THE Topsham town meeting on Wednesday approve an ordinance regarding vernal pools.

VOTERS AT THE Topsham town meeting on Wednesday approve an ordinance regarding vernal pools.

TOPSHAM

At a town meeting Wednesday, Topsham voters approved an $11.77 million budget for 2017-18.

All 23 articles passed, including the budget and proposed ordinance amendments.

The capital projects fund article passed despite a 113 percent, or $875,300, increase.

Municipal spending is increasing 9.9 percent, Selectman Chairman David Douglass said, “but that spending is coming from sources other than taxation.”

He added, “This budget would actually drop your tax rate by $0.25 per $1,000 (of assessed value).”

This year, the town ended up with a more than $1 million surplus, Douglass said. Topsham also has a policy that says it won’t have more than 18 percent of the budget in reserve funds. A minimum of half the $1 million in excess funds must be used for property tax relief, he said. The town has been able to use money from its tax increment financing district revenue to fund many capital project items.

The tax rate is still expected to increase due to anticipated increases in the local share of the School Administrative District 75 and Sagadahoc County budgets. The estimated tax rate of $18.49 per $1,000 of assessed value — a 2.77 percent increase — is already expected to be lower as values continue to change. The tax rate will be set in August when the assessor establishes the town’s final value.

Doug Bennett said that while he understands the town is receiving $468,142 in state revenue sharing funds, the state doesn’t fully fund revenue hearing and asked how much the town would receive if it were. He also wanted to know the impact on local taxes.

Town Manager Rich Roedner said if the state were funding the full 5 percent of income and sales tax, the revenue sharing funds to the town would be in excess of $1.2 million. He estimated the more than $700,000 the town isn’t getting would have an impact on the tax rate of approximately $0.70 per $1,000 of assessed value.

Also discussed Wednesday was a proposed amendment to an existing municipal TIF for Highland Green, as well as the creation of a new TIF. The new TIF will apply to the still undeveloped portion of the project, halted by the recession.

Douglass said Highland Green and the town weren’t able to realize the full potential of the TIF, now at year 17. Under the new TIF agreement, Douglass said the developer will complete the project by 2020, to Mountain Road improvements including water and sewer, and to make a $400,000 payment to the town for bike and pedestrian paths.

Otto Skirbe asked what kind of development and jobs will be created.

Douglass said an assisted care unit is expected to create 66 full-time executive, professional and technical jobs; 53 administrative support and clerical jobs, 137 sales and service jobs and 37 maintenance jobs. Commercial development is also a possibility on this property.

The proposed marijuana moratorium was also passed, which Roedner said for six months will keep any retail establishments from opening in Topsham while the town learns how the state will regulate a new recreational marijuana law passed by voters last November, and to put its own ordinance in place. The selectmen can extend the moratorium another six months.

One resident asked why the town doesn’t just ban retail marijuana establishments. Another spoke in support of the moratorium, which will give the town time to decide what residents want.

There were 175 registered voters at the meeting held at Mt. Ararat High School.

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