NORTH YARMOUTH — Despite a potential 17 percent increase in the municipal budget, projected revenues are strong enough to keep a tax hike – including school and county assessments – to 0.3 percent.

Residents will vote on the proposed $3.2 million town budget by line item at Town Meeting on Saturday, April 6. The 9 a.m. gathering will be held at the Greely Center for the Arts, 303 Main St., in Cumberland.

The proposed $3.2 million budget for fiscal year 2020 is up $467,000 from current spending. Nearly $817,000 in fixed expenses – up about $332,000, or nearly 69 percent – is the major driver behind the sharp spending increase.

The first year of debt service for the Wescustogo Community Center – a pared-down and renovated North Yarmouth Memorial School connected to a rebuilt Wescustogo Hall – encompasses nearly $286,000 of those fixed expenses.

Employee benefits, rising 22 percent (nearly $58,000) to total more than $323,000, are another major fixed expense hike. A 4 percent increase (nearly $45,000) in health and life insurance largely contributes to that hike.

The silver lining in the budget picture is a projected revenue hike that will offset expenses. About $2 million in non-property tax increases – 22.3 percent growth – is anticipated by both the Select Board and Budget Committee.

Those include a 102 percent rise ($195,000) in state revenue sharing, 33.1 percent ($46,000) in solid waste and recycling, 11.3 percent ($98,000) in motor vehicle excise, and 11 percent ($45,000) in other revenues, such as anticipated rental fees from the Wescustogo center, due to open late this year.

Assessments to North Yarmouth from School Administrative District 51 and Cumberland County are $7.3 million (up nearly $44,000) and $362,000 (up about $25,000), respectively. The SAD 51 impact is expected to be flat this year, compared with nearly 6 percent last year, thanks largely to a $961,000 hike in state aid to education.

“The biggest thing is what came down from Augusta,” Town Manager Rosemary Roy said March 20 about the revenue increases. “Because these are monies we should have been receiving for a long time.”

All told, taxes would increase 0.3 percent, adding 5 cents to the town’s tax rate of $16.67 per $1,000 of property valuation. The owner of a home assessed at $300,000 would consequently see a tax bill increase of $15.

The town also looks to use $100,000 from the undesignated fund balance, currently at $1.1 million, to mitigate the tax burden.

“We only use it if we have to,” Roy said, noting that expenses coming in less than expected could prevent dipping into that pot.

Municipal staff wages are due to increase 23 percent (nearly $58,000), which go toward a full-time director and half-time custodian at Wescustogo, and cost of living raises. Another town custodian position has been moved out of Public Works and into municipal administration, contributing to a 6 percent ($16,000) drop in that department, and the hike on the municipal side.

Code enforcement and planning is up 50 percent (about $34,000), to fund a new administrative support staffer in that department.

Fire-Rescue wages are up 23 percent ($37,000), to fund additional employee hours. That will ensure someone is at the station regularly throughout the week and ready to go out on calls, instead of having to come in from home, Roy said.

“We’re solidifying positions for Monday through Friday, and (paying) per diems who are willing to commit, so that there is dual coverage” along with the chief, she explained. “It’s for more solid coverage in Fire-Rescue.”

The town plans to increase trash bag costs for residents from $12.50 to $15 a set beginning in July, to help offset a 12.5 percent ($25,000) increase in solid waste and recycling expenses, according to Roy. The town is budgeting a 33 percent ($46,000) increase in solid waste and recycling revenues as a result.

Budget line items comprise Articles 7-18 in the 24-article Town Meeting warrant.

Non-budgetary items

Before tackling the budget, voters will consider establishing the town’s first tax increment financing district (Article 6). The potential Village Center TIF would include several properties along Route 9 and Route 115, from about Pea Lane north to Route 231 and east to Oak Hill Road. The nearly 431 acres include 1.64 percent of North Yarmouth’s total 13,702 acres.

New property tax value – the tax increment – would be created on a parcel within the district’s boundaries when it has been developed or improved. New value created from such projects would be sheltered by North Yarmouth, instead of being added to the town’s state-determined valuation. This sheltering could avoid tax assessment increases to the town from SAD 51 and Cumberland County.

The net original assessed value of the district as of April 1, 2018, was $16.5 million, which is expected to increase to about $17.2 million by this April.

Article 4 asks residents to authorize the lease of the town-owned Village Green at 475 Walnut Hill Road (Route 115) to the North Yarmouth Historical Society, in order to allow the organization to relocate the Old Town House there. In exchange, the society would transfer ownership to the town of the quarter-acre 470 Memorial Highway (Route 9) property on which the 1853 structure sits.

NYHS members hope to relocate the weathered 1,550-square-foot building to the center of town, on the vacant parcel where Wescustogo Hall sat for decades before burning down in 2013.

Voters will also consider a quarterly property tax payment policy (Article 21), instead of the current twice-yearly rule. Taxes in a given fiscal year would be due the middle of September, December, March and June.

Alex Lear can be reached at 780-9085 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

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