WEST BATH — West Bath residents will be asked to approve the town’s proposed $2.4 million budget at the annual town meeting next week as well as an article that would keep the school’s budget flat.

If the municipal budget is approved, the property tax rate will remain $10.50 per $1,000 of valuation. A property assessed at $200,000 would still have a $2,100 tax bill.

According to West Bath Town Administrator Kristine Poland, the town consolidated its surplus funds from previous years to offset the nearly $400,000 increase in spending over last year.

“Because of our surplus funds, and the diligence of those who prepare the budget and manage expenditures, the proposed budget will cause no increase in the rate,” Select Board Chair Madelyn Hennessey wrote in a letter to West Bath residents. “That has left us in good financial shape as we face the economic insecurities of the pandemic.”

This means projects — including a $12,000 technology update in the town hall and the $30,000 bill for replacement of rotting siding on the town hall — could be covered while keeping the tax rate level, Poland said.

“It has been a very difficult year for people and we’re sensitive to that,” said Poland. “We wanted to keep taxes flat at a time when people are dealing with a pandemic and the challenges that come along with that.”

Residents will also vote to decide whether to approve West Bath School’s $3.9 million budget, finalized by the school board in June, as well as an article that, if approved, will keep the school’s budget flat as well.

Hennessey urged voters to approve article 52 in the town meeting warrant because it will give the town the freedom to move funds from one area of the school budget to another for this year only.

“That change will allow the West Bath Elementary School to continue to provide superior education at the same cost as last year,” Hennessey wrote.

The school budget includes a $78,3000, or 2.05%, increase in expenditures over the prior year’s budget of $3.8 million. However, taxpayers will not see an increase because the West Bath School Administrative Unit was able to use carry-over funds to eliminate the local contribution when combined with the state education subsidy.

The major drivers of the school budget are a $79,500 increase, about 6%, in student enrollment and another $55,893.53, a 27% increase, to boost nursing services from one day per week to five days, according to Emily Thompson, West Bath School principal and superintendent.

“I don’t know how we would manage meeting summer guidelines for reopening school without having a full-time nurse,” Thompson said at the school board’s June 10 meeting. “I think it’s a prudent decision to have a nurse on-site given the needs of incoming students and the current state of affairs with COVID-19.”

Those increased costs are offset by a $53,000 reduction in special education programming and another $20,000 reduction in special education transportation due to a decrease in enrollment.

The annual town meeting is set for 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 3, at Bath Middle School.

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