School Administrative District 51 Superintendent Jeff Porter discusses state aid trends the past four years during Monday’s Cumberland Town Council meeting. Alex Lear / The Forecaster

CUMBERLAND — An early draft of next year’s budget, with town, school and county numbers included, could increase taxes on an average $420,000 home in Cumberland by almost $300.

The $11.55 million fiscal year 2021 municipal budget that Town Manager Bill Shane unveiled at a workshop Feb. 18 reflects a potential hike of 6.8%. However, spending would be offset by $5.65 million in revenues, which are up 7.8%, resulting in a 0.18% increase in municipal taxes.

The town’s assessment from School Administrative District 51 could rise 3.28%, according to preliminary numbers, and its assessment from Cumberland County could be up 0.08%. Overall taxes could consequently rise 3.53%, adding 70 cents to Cumberland’s tax rate of $19.85 per $1,000 of property valuation.

Major components of Cumberland’s projected $736,000 increase in municipal spending include $175,000 in wage and benefit increases to cover cost of living adjustments; $124,000 from contracted services such as snow plowing, dispatch and waste management; and $197,000 in debt service toward a $7 million bond to fund several facility improvements and a new fire truck. Another major component is $170,000 to implement three railroad quiet zones.

The $909,000 capital reserves line item is up $138,000, largely due to the approximately 2,000-foot extension of the Tuttle Road sidewalk from its endpoint, by a set of railroad tracks, down to the Twin Brook Recreation Area entrance. The Maine Department of Transportation is contributing $200,000 to the $410,000 project, and the town is funding the rest.

“The big numbers are what they are, and fortunately we’ve had a good year with revenue offsets,” Shane said. “I think the impact is going to be a pretty responsible budget.”

Revenues are up nearly $449,000, an increase driven largely by hikes in three categories: 25% in recreation monies, 52% in intergovernmental funds such as state revenue sharing and fees assessed to North Yarmouth for library and recreation services, and 23% in other tax revenues like excise tax.

Subsequent budget workshops are at Town Hall at 5 p.m. Monday, March 2 and 19, and 8 a.m. Saturday, March 14. A public hearing and adoption by the Town Council could occur March 23 or April 13.

School numbers

SAD 51 is still developing its fiscal year 2021 budget, but rough numbers forecast a $20.17 million school assessment to Cumberland, reflecting a 6.5% increase. Debt service is due to rise $387,500, primarily due to the first principal payment on the district’s new Greely Center for the Arts. A fourth modular classroom building, costing about $142,000, is to be added at the Mabel I. Wilson elementary school, where student enrollment of 692 has surpassed capacity by nearly 100.

Largely due to rising enrollment, the district is exploring construction of a new primary school, a matter that could go to referendum in November.

The district is projected to get $11.96 million in state aid to education, about $140,000 more than it received last year. Those numbers remain “very preliminary,” Porter said. About 31% of SAD 51’s revenue comes from the state; almost all the rest comes from Cumberland and North Yarmouth.

The district’s health insurance rate for next year is still unknown, and teacher salaries are being negotiated. Both are significant budget drivers, Porter said.

SAD 51 is due to roll out next year’s budget Monday, March 16. The School Board meeting is at 7 p.m. in Greely High School’s Gyger Room.

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