YARMOUTH — With preliminary budget numbers in hand, Town Manager Nat Tupper said residents could see a $1.18 increase in their property tax rate for the 2020 fiscal year.

At a council meeting Feb. 28, Tupper said the school budget is up $2.1 million  and his current projections for the municipal budget show an increase of more than $701,000 in expenditures.

The School Committee is set to hold a final vote on Superintendent Andrew Dolloff’s proposed $29.9 million budget at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 7.

The Town Council will get its first look at the combined school and municipal budget numbers at a March 21 meeting. To date, the combined budget totals nearly $39 million, not including the county assessment.

Yarmouth’s current tax rate is $17.80 per $1,000 of valuation and could increase to $18.98 per $1,000, Tupper said.

Even with a projected increase in spending, Tupper said the municipal budget doesn’t do nearly enough to meet all of the town’s outstanding needs, especially since the municipal budget has remained relatively flat for the past 10 years.

He said there are several challenges with the 2020 budget still ahead, including the fact that state aid to education and state revenue sharing numbers are “still up in the air” until the Legislature passes a new state budget.

Tupper said the biggest budget impacts so far are for health insurance and wage increases for town employees. He also said Yarmouth will see a 9 percent increase in its hydrant rental fee and that the town has exceeded its legal and professional services budget for the past two years.

While Tupper acknowledged the council’s desire to keep any tax increases to a minimum, he also felt compelled to point out everything the town is not doing and won’t be able to tackle under the new fiscal year budget he’s still pulling together for consideration.

Tupper told the council the town is experiencing “significant staffing shortages” in all departments, which means department heads are “greatly overburdened.” That’s why he would like to see some new staff, particularly in human resources and accounting.

Other needed items that have been under discussion for years include a new emergency generator for Town Hall, structural repairs on the Davis Landing Bridge and upgrading the radio equipment for the town’s fire and police. But Tupper said he doesn’t see any money in the budget for those expenditures.

He’s also concerned that no money has been set aside for dredging the harbor or the Royal River and while there’s strong interest in a school resource officer position, that also has not been budgeted.

Tupper also said there are other capital needs, including dam maintenance and converting the town’s street lights to LED lighting, which could save energy costs over time. Another need not being met, he said, is public demand for an increase in library hours.

In addition, Tupper said with bonds coming due, the Town Council may want to look at how it’s structuring and timing its debt payments.

Council Chairman Robert Waeldner said last week the council would be meeting in workshop session over the next several Mondays to discuss the budget and there would be time for public input later this month or in early April.

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 780-9097 or [email protected]. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

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