FREEPORT — The public will have the chance to chime in tonight on Freeport’s proposed $10.4 million municipal budget, which carries a 2.4% tax increase on its own and a possible 3.65% increase when combined with the school and county budgets.

The combined spending plans for the town, county and Regional School Unit 5 would result in an estimated 52-cent increase to the tax rate. That would bring the mil rate to $15.60 per $1,000 of valuation, meaning the tax bill for a property assessed at $300,000 would be $4,680.

With the $1.2 million county tax, up 7.52% from last year, the overall Freeport 2020 budget is $11.6 million, a $317,000 or 3.31% increase from 2019. The $34.1 million RSU5 budget, $1.1 million more than last year,  is out for referendum June 11, and on its own would hike taxes 2.68%, adding 40 cents to the mil rate in Freeport, according to the Forecaster.

“The past few budget years have been difficult, and this year was no exception,” Town Manager Peter Joseph and Finance Director Jessica Maloy wrote in a letter to the town council.

The roughly $288,000 increase from last year’s municipal budget is largely attributed to salary increases, which will cost about $203,000, Maloy told the council in April.

They also budgeted $50,000 to cover rejected recycling loads and other Ecomaine assessment fees, an item which has dominated town council budget discussions over the past few weeks.

Freeport recycles through Ecomaine, and while the town will see its costs increase less than surrounding communities like Brunswick and Topsham, rates are still expected to rise.

Freeport previously did not have to pay tipping fees for recycling, just money for contamination costs. However, in an effort to come in line with the cost of doing business, the town will have to pay $35 per ton starting July 1.

Last year, Freeport contributed 830 tons of recycled materials, with a roughly 13% contamination rate, down from about 15% the year before, according to company Communications Manager Matt Grondin.

Next year, town officials are projecting they will have about 1,000 tons of recyclables, and factoring in estimated contamination fee, the town has budgeted for a $50,000 increase, Maloy said.

Freeport officials and town councilors are “exploring ideas to mitigate impact,” Maloy said, but it is unclear if a resolution will be made before the targeted budget adoption June 18.

Other factors influencing the budget are a request for a quality assurance/quality improvement contractor and an apparatus study for the Fire and Rescue Department for $23,000.

According to Maloy, the increase in the operating budget is partially offset by a $160,750 increase in non-property tax revenue.

The loss of rental income associated with the Bartol Building, formerly the library and later an Abercrombie and Fitch, leaves a $150,000 hole, but is offset with an $85,000 increase in revenue sharing and a $75,000 increase in Business Equipment Tax Exemption Reimbursement along with other revenue changes, Maloy and Joseph said.

The town council public hearing is 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the town hall council chambers. Budget adoption is slated for June 18.

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