HARPSWELL — This year’s proposed $5.8 million municipal budget, up 3% over current spending, includes reserve funds to replace the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems at the Town Office, and begin a two-year capital upgrade at the Recycling Center.

The spending package goes to a Town Meeting vote March 14. The impact on taxes has yet to be determined, since the town’s assessment from School Administrative District 75 is still unknown. But if that assessment and the town’s total taxable valuation both remain the same, and taking into account the town’s 2020 estimated revenues of $2.7 million, the tax impact could be just 1%, according to Deputy Town Administrator Terri Sawyer.

That percentage is likely to change. Adding new value would lessen the impact and increasing the school levy would increase it, she noted.

Harpswell’s current tax rate is $6.70 per $1,000 of property valuation. An average Harpswell home is valued at $429,200 and is assessed $2,876 in taxes.

Budget information is available via the “Town Meeting 2020 Information” tab at harpswell.maine.gov. Town meeting is at Harpswell Community School at 10 a.m. Saturday, March 14.

The town budget includes a 2.5% pay increase for all employees, along with added pay adjustments for some positions. The spending plan also proposes funding for two major capital projects. One $425,000 endeavor would replace 20-year-old HVAC systems at the Town Office that have reached the end of their usefulness and resulted in “considerable maintenance costs, inefficient operations and employee discomfort,” according to Town Administrator Kristi Eiane. The town’s facilities reserve fund had $151,000 last year, and residents next month will vote to add another $275,000 to fund the new systems.

The second project is a Recycling Center capital upgrade, to be funded this year and next. The two-year phased project is estimated to cost between $800,000 and $1 million, Sawyer said. The recycling reserve has $94,000, to which $450,000 is proposed to be added this year, with the balance to be funded next year.

Harpswell this year would replace two compactors that have reached the end of their life cycle, add parking and improve user safety at the facility, Eiane said. Next year the Recycling Center building and systems would be upgraded.

No capital funds are budgeted this year for road projects, because the town is now planning future projects.

Service levels are to stay the same this year, except for a proposed increase in time worked by Deputy Harbormaster Greg Coyne. He primarily worked 24 hours a week from May to August, but this year would work 32 hours weekly from mid-April to mid-October. Of the $98,000 harbormaster line item, nearly $6,000 of the $19,000 increase covers Coyne’s extra time.

“With the most coastline of any municipality in Maine, Harpswell will benefit from having the dDeputy Harbormaster become more involved in harbor management activities,” Eiane stated in her annual report.

“During this time, (Coyne) would assist with setting up aids to navigation throughout town … such as channel markers and no-wake zones, new and existing,” according to Harbormaster Paul Plummer. “The deputy harbormaster will also assist in Marine Resource Conservation projects that begin in April,” such as the launch of a tidal upweller, a nursery where young clams grow.

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