NORTH YARMOUTH — The town’s proposed $3.39 million budget for next year reflects a 6.19% increase over current spending, although taxes on a $300,000 home in town could rise just $36.

A municipal budget would normally have been approved by last month at Town Meeting, where residents vote publicly on a proposed budget by line item. But with the coronavirus pandemic forcing that well-attended gathering’s cancellation this year, voters will instead decide on the spending plan by secret ballot at the July 14 general election.

“It’s basically a thumbs up or thumbs down on the whole budget,” said Andy Walsh, chairman of the Budget Committee. “Personally, I kind of enjoy the town meetings, even though they can be a little fractious at times. … It’s democracy at its rawest form.”

Offsetting the budget are $1.65 million in non-property tax revenues, including nearly $829,000 in motor vehicle excise and almost $272,000 in state municipal revenue sharing. The town also looks to offset expenses by transferring up to $300,000 from its undesignated fund balance, and various projects in the budget are to be offset by $186,000 from tax increment financing district (TIF) funds. With another $15,000 in donations toward the new Wescustogo Hall & Community Center, that leaves $1.23 million to come from property taxes.

With assessments from School Administrative District 51 and Cumberland County factored in, North Yarmouth’s current tax rate of $16.62 per $1,000 of property valuation would increase 12 cents, to reach $16.74. A $250,000 home could see a $30 increase, and one valued at $450,000 would be assessed $54 more, according to Town Manager Rosemary Roy.

Fixed expenses are proposed to rise from nearly $817,000 to $974,000, which includes a $25,000 hike in health and life insurance. County tax is rising from $362,000 to nearly $417,000 due to a switch from a January-December calendar year to a July-June fiscal year, resulting in an assessment covering 18 months instead of the usual 12, Roy said.

SAD 51’s assessment to North Yarmouth has been slated to rise from $7.4 million to $7.9 million, although school officials have been looking for additional savings amid the economic upheaval of the pandemic.

The impact of those changes on North Yarmouth’s revenue stream from the state, and on individual taxpayers, caused the Select Board and Budget Committee to rework the budget in order to flatten the tax impact as much as possible, Walsh said. “There were some challenges in it, but it went pretty smoothly, considering,” he noted.

Debt service is decreasing from nearly $286,000 to almost $281,000, thanks to the town having paid the first – and largest – principal payment on the community center in fiscal year 2020. Also included are $15,000 in donations to offset that debt, Roy said.

The community center, a newly-created department in the fiscal year 2021 budget, includes about $60,000 in funding. Of that, $55,000 goes toward the salary of Director Lisa Thompson, an increase from about $40,000 this year. The raise puts Thompson “where she should be,” Roy said.

A $34,000 increase in the Buildings & Grounds department, which totals nearly $128,000, includes about $13,000 for a new solar lease, funding an array of panels on the Wescustogo roof. Also included is $38,000, not including benefits, for a new full-time custodian, who replaces two part-time custodians paid about $45,000 together.

Voters will also be asked July 14 to use $186,000 from TIF funds to pay for various economic development purposes: $76,000 in administrative costs, $83,000 in consulting and legal services, and $20,000 in street-related public safety endeavors, such as continued traffic calming measures and a Village Center engineering project, Roy said.

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