If Falmouth’s proposed 2022-23 budget is approved it would mean an increase in the property tax rate of 68 cents due in large part to a request to fully staff the fire department.

The proposed budget is just less than $17 million, up $2.7 million from roughly $15 million this year.  The tax rate would increase 3.9%, from $17.43 per $1,000 of real estate valuation to $18.11. The owner of a $400,000 home would pay $272 more in taxes next year, not including any additional taxes that might result from the new school budget, according to the town.

The fire department is requesting about $4.6 million, the majority of which will cover full-time salaries including 12 new full-time positions, compared to $3.3 million this year, an increase of about 39%. A fully-staffed department would mean at least three  crew members would be working at Winn Road station at all times, according to Fire Chief Howard Rice. All personnel will be cross-trained as firefighters and EMTs, he said.

Falmouth has not been immune to a nationwide shortage in fire and EMS personnel, Rice said. Over the last 10 years, the town has lost most of its on-call company as members left for medical school or the military, moved out of state or found full-time employment elsewhere.

“We used to have a response of 40-plus call members to calls in 2011, and now often get only two or three,” Rice said. “We must hire full-time staffing to put our trucks on the road and respond to the 2,000-plus emergencies that we are called to each year.”

This staffing plan has been a goal in Falmouth since 2020.


“Last week we had three calls in town at the same time. We had an ambulance crew at a call in Cumberland and an ambulance crew at a call in Portland, as their towns were busy and needed help.  That was five calls at the same time for us. Yarmouth Fire Rescue sent units down to help us at a car crash in town,” Rice said. “This stresses the fact that we are not the only ones needing more help. We help our neighbors, and they help us.”

Currently, the department has 18 firefighters/EMS and about 15 per diem personnel, which allows the station to have at least five people on duty around the clock at Central Station, located at 8 Bucknam Road.

Other major drivers in the proposed budget include about $806,000 to restore capital funding; a $311,000, or 5% increase for a cost-of-living salary increase for all town employees; and $126,000 for salary and benefits for a new facilities director, who will manage the maintenance and operations of all town buildings, as well as contracts for cleaning, HVAC, repairs, fuel and annual licenses.

“Even though (restoring capital funding) is a driver in the budget right now, the reason why we have to rebuild the capital budget is because of the first phase of fire/EMS increases in FY 2021,” when 14 full-time positions were added to the staff, Poore said.

The most significant change was deferring the purchase of a tank truck for the fire department from FY21 to this fiscal year, among “other minor adjustments,” he said.

“The reason why the capital budget was, for the most part, decimated in FY 2021, was because that was the first year of phasing in full-time fire/EMS and the council didn’t want to increase the budget too much during the first year of the pandemic,” Poore said. “They cut that capital budget knowing they would have to rebuild it at a later date.”

A public hearing on the budget is being held April 6 over Zoom and the Town Council is scheduled to vote on it April 25. The full budget outline and presentation can be found at falmouthme.org.

“For us, it’s really about trying to get the public to understand why this is happening. Nobody wants to increase the (tax rate). We have to look at the (tax rate) in order to provide a level of service that we think people are expecting from fire/EMS,” Poore said. “There isn’t really anything else being added to any other department.”

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