HARPSWELL — In light of the economic strain created by the coronavirus pandemic, the Board of Selectmen adopted a proposed $5.35 million budget May 14 that is nearly $450,000 less than what was proposed in February.

With assessments from School Administrative District 75 ($8.72 million, up 5.3%) and Cumberland County ($1.33 million, up 0.5%) included, Harpswell’s tax rate of $6.70 per $1,000 of property valuation would rise 5 cents, or 0.8%. As a result, a home valued at $400,000 could see a $20 increase, from $2,680 to $2,700.

Residents were due to approve the fiscal year 2020 budget at Town Meeting on  March 14. But with most of that gathering canceled as the pandemic spread across the country, the spending plan will instead go to referendum July 14. A public hearing with social distancing in place will be held at the Harpswell Community School either June 17 or 18.

The Board of Selectmen on April 2 cut a net $376,000 from the budget and allocated an additional $200,000 from the fund balance to offset a projected $200,000 drop in revenue, primarily in excise tax, according to Town Administrator Kristi Eiane.

The largest cut was $450,000 toward Recycling Center upgrades, slated for funding through Harpswell’s capital budget this year. “Instead of appropriating the money in one year as a capital project, we made a decision that we would borrow the 450 and spread it out, and pay it back over a 10-year period,” Eiane said.

The town looks this year to replace two compactors that have reached the end of their life cycle, add parking and improve user safety at the facility.


Although town officials had proposed borrowing up to $300,000 toward purchasing an emergency vehicle, they now look instead to borrow that amount to replace a communications tower on Orr’s Island, which Eiane called a “more urgent need.”

The selectmen also added $30,000 in contingency funds in case of cost overages, as well as $30,000 to general assistance.

Among other reductions made May 14, board members shaved $20,000 by combining the positions of treasurer and deputy administrator. Treasurer Marguerite Kelly died last month, and Deputy Administrator Terri Sawyer will take on the combined role.

Although one proposed cut was to reduce across-the-board wage and salary increases from 2.5% to 1.5%, saving nearly $8,000, the Board of Selectmen opted to keep those funds in the budget.

Staff had seen “minimal increases” in recent years, and they do an “excellent job” and are “very dedicated to their work,” said Selectwoman Jane Covey, a liaison to Harpswell’s Budget Advisory Committee.

“While this is a difficult time, our staff are dealing with the public, they’re front-line workers, we’re putting them at risk as we open the Town Office,” Covey said. “They will do their jobs … they have been doing their jobs. And so we didn’t want to make that change.”

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