Budget up 2 percemt

MOUNT DESERT — Unless an urgent, big-ticket need arises between now and the annual town meeting in May, next year’s municipal budget will be of the hold-the-line variety.

It calls for spending $8.9 million, an increase of 2 percent over the current year’s budget.

“I would describe it as maintaining our operational services, with just minor increases due to inflation and the cost of personnel, which goes up a little bit every year,” Town Manager Durlin Lunt said.

He prepared the budget with input from the town’s department heads. It has been tweaked by the Board of Selectmen and sent to the Warrant Committee for review.

Asked what the lean budget says about the state of the town’s affairs, Lunt said, “Our services are excellent. As for our infrastructure, over the last five to six years, we have added new facilities and upgraded some of our older ones, so we’re just on a maintenance phase with them now. I would say we are very solid in that regard.”

Major capital projects in recent years have included construction of a new highway department garage on Sargeant Drive and a major expansion and modernization of the sewage treatment plant on Sinclair Road in Northeast Harbor.

Lunt said the annual updating of the town’s capital improvement plan helps avoid big spikes in the budget.

“Every year, we set aside money to fund those capital needs that we know are coming up,” he said. “I think that’s the key to keeping our operational budget low, because there are no surprises.”

Lunt credited Public Works Director Tony Smith and his staff for maintaining the town’s facilities and “making sure things are addressed before they get to the critical stage.”

The proposed municipal budget for next year calls for a 2.8 percent increase for both the Police Department and Fire Department, an increase of less than 1 percent for the highway division of the Public Works Department and a reduction of nearly 1 percent in spending for wastewater treatment.

One of the most notable changes from the current year’s budget is a proposed increase from $5,000 to $25,000 in the category of human resources. A note in the budget explains that the additional funds are needed to hire a consultant to review the town’s salary grade structure and a consultant to assist with union negotiations that are set to begin in the spring of 2018.

Residents will vote on the municipal budget, along with the budget for Mount Desert Elementary School, at the May 2 town meeting. The proposed school budget has not yet been finalized.

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]
Dick Broom

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