CAPE ELIZABETH — Officials have presented a combined municipal and community services budget of around $14.2 million, a 4.5% increase over the current year, but Town Manager Matthew Sturgis stressed this week that growing economic uncertainty in the wake of the coronavirus means the numbers may need revisiting before the budget is finalized.

Sturgis said officials are proposing to raise just less than $8 million from property taxes; if approved, the net increase to the current $19.68 tax rate is estimated at 3.9%. In practical terms, Sturgis said that adds up to a rate increase of 17 cents, or $17 per $100,000. On a home valued at $250,000, that adds up to an increase of $42.50.

The problem, Sturgis said, is calculations include estimated revenues generated in town of approximately $6.3 million, and with the coronavirus causing economic difficulties nationwide, those figures could very well change.

“That’s where I say, all bets are off at this point,” Sturgis said.

For example, excise tax fees may drop if people don’t buy as many new cars during the 2021 fiscal year as the town has estimated. Sturgis said the town is also anticipating “moderate” revenues from fees such as building permits, but an economic downturn could change that as well. Further, the virus has led to closings of municipal services such as the pool and fitness center, and if they stay closed long enough, classes and related activities that will hurt more income coming into the town.

“People pay fees to use our pool and people pay fees to use our fitness center,” he said.

These and many other factors must all be reviewed before the final proposed budget can reflect accurate revenue estimates, he said.

Finance Director John Quartararo agreed with Sturgis’ concerns. He said economic turmoil could affect state funding. Also, he said, the federal government’s lowered interest rates can lead to less interest income coming into the town from the banks where the town keeps its money.

Quartararo also noted that if the unemployment rate goes up, that could lead to more local residents coming to the town for local assistance, in addition to needing help from the state.

For now, Sturgis is calling for a halt to all discretionary spending until June 30, which marks the end of the 2020 fiscal year.

Sturgis said the town may hold a budget workshop on April 1, depending on whether the town lifts its ban on in-person meetings. Officials are also exploring whether to hold virtual meetings, but it’s hard to say for certain what will be happening.

“All options are on the table at this point,” he said.

Sturgis encouraged the public to monitor the town’s website, www.capeelizabeth.com for updates. He also said residents are free to send inquiries to him or their local town council member via email.

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