FREEPORT — Freeport town councilors on Tuesday adopted a municipal budget that will hopefully keep the financial burden low for families battling the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, according to officials. 

The essentially flat $10.4 million town budget ($11.8 million with the county tax) would lower taxes by less than half a percent, but when combined with Freeport’s projected $19 million share of the Regional School Unit 5 budget, residents will face an overall 1.62% tax increase. 

This will increase the town’s mill rate to $14.53 per $1,000 valuation, according to Finance Director Jessica Maloy, meaning a $4,359 property tax bill for a home valued at $300,000. 

Original estimates carried a 3.87% overall tax increase, but since the budget was presented after officials were already bracing for the financial toll of the pandemic, the municipal portion has remained low — officials cut around $19,000 from the original presentation, but the impact on the projected tax rate was negligible. 

The majority of the cuts were to the $34 million RSU 5 budget, which will go to referendum July 14. The public can still weigh in on the school budget though, and there will be a virtual public hearing at 6:30 p.m. June 24. 

According to the Forecaster, school officials cut about $836,000 from the proposed budget.

The school district’s budget is largely driven by a $1.5 million increase in estimated salary and benefits. To offset expenses, the district will use $549,000 from the fiscal year 2019 unexpended fund balance.  Also included in the cost reductions is $106,000 from all staff taking one furlough day. RSU 5 includes Freeport, Pownal and Durham. 

The town’s portion of the school budget is nearly twice the municipal budget.

The municipal budget includes a roughly $90,750 spending increase related to salaries, hydrant rentals, water quality testing, tree and vehicle work and vehicle maintenance among others. 

That is offset by a revenue increase of about $96,900. 

The term “revenue increase” is a bit of a misnomer, town officials said previously, because the proposed sources of revenue are one-time only adjustments from other sources that will ultimately need to be replenished in future budget cycles.

Some cost-saving measures include a $150,000 reduction from the town-wide paving budget, a $95,000 increase in the use of impact fees, and the town employees may also forgo a planned 2.5% cost of living adjustment. Removing funding for the Fourth of July parade and reducing funds for streetlights and travel saved an additional $19,000.

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