FREEPORT —  After a few last minute changes, Freeport officials approved a $10.41 million municipal budget on Tuesday. On its own, that would decrease taxes by 0.17%, but when combined with the school and county budgets will increase taxes by 2.85%. 

The combined spending plans for the town, county and Regional School Unit 5 will result in an estimated 43-cent increase to the tax rate, bringing it to about $15.48 per $1,000 of valuation That means a $4,644 tax bill for a property assessed at $300,000.

Last week, voters approved a $34.1 million RSU5 budget, which was $1.1 million higher than the previous one, in a 333-98 vote. Freeport assumes a little over 60% of the responsibility for the district’s budget.

Just before the budget was adopted, Town Manager Peter Joseph recommended a $20,000 increase to the police budget for an animal control officer position shared between Freeport and Brunswick, with Freeport receiving approximately 10 hours of service per week.

They also increased the Hunter Road Fields, a town athletics and recreation site, budget by $6,200.

The budget reflects a 2.93% increase in spending from last year.

However, when Gov. Janet Mills signed into law the state’s $8 billion budget on Monday, it increased state revenue sharing (sales tax money distributed by the state as property tax relief) to 3% from just over 2%. For Freeport, this resulted in a $154,000 increase in revenue sharing over what Freeport initially expected, Maloy said Tuesday night.

Recycling costs dominated much of recent town council discussions leading up to the budget vote. The struggling global recycling market drove overall recycling costs in Freeport from $413,000 to almost $500,000 for next year. It’s a challenge faced by other communities across Maine and the country. 

Other factors influencing the budget included a request for a quality assurance/quality improvement contractor and an apparatus study for the fire department, projected at $23,000.

The roughly $288,000 increase from last year’s municipal budget is primarily due to salaries, which cost just over $200,000 Maloy told the council in April, followed by the increases for recycling and the fire department.

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