Budget has taxes up 3.7%



SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Voters will consider budgets that require a 3.7 percent increase in the tax rate and decide on funding for sidewalk and sewer projects at Town Meeting here May 6-7.

The Town Meeting will be held Monday, May 6, at 7 p.m. in the Pemetic Elementary School gym. This year, a spaghetti dinner prepared by school staff is planned, beginning at 5:30 p.m.

On May 7, residents will cast written ballots in town elections. Candidates for the two seats on the Board of Selectmen are incumbent chair Chad Terry, Jose Feliciano, Allen “Snap” Willey, Jose “JoJo” Feliciano Jr. and Arthur “Hess” Pettigrow. Current selectman George Jellison, Jr. is not seeking another term.

John Izenour is running for the school board and Steve Hudson is seeking another term on the Mount Desert Island High School Board of Trustees.

The town’s mill rate — the amount of property tax per $1,000 of assessed value — is $13.62 for the current fiscal year. Under the proposed budget, it would be $14.13. For a house valued at $250,000 the annual tax bill would increase by $127.50

The $4.1 million municipal budget is up 10 percent from last year. The largest increases are in debt service, with increased payments on one of the 2018 infrastructure bonds, and in Capital Improvement Program funds. CIP appropriations include saving for improvements to the town docks; fire, police and highway vehicles; and the municipal building.

The budget also includes the town’s assessment from the county, which is up 4 percent, and $4.7 million for schools. Southwest Harbor’s $1.7 million assessment for MDI High School is 13.2 percent of that school’s budget.

Articles 43 and 44 on the warrant deal with funding for the Water and Sewer District. Article 43 would allow selectmen to enter into an agreement to pay debt service on a future bond for major work on the Wastewater Treatment Plant. The bond, which will be held by the district, is expected to be for $8 million over 40 years. That’s about half of the total cost of the project; the other half will be paid by a grant (technically, a principal forgiveness program in the construction loan) from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.

Even though payments won’t be due until late 2020, the district’s trustees asked for the article gauging the town’s willingness to fund the project before beginning work. That support was affirmed in a general way in 2010, when voters agreed to fund capital improvements to the sewer system with a life of more than 20 years.

Article 45 would add a new 47-page harbor management plan to the town’s Comprehensive Plan. The document may help the town with related grant applications, according to Harbormaster Adam Thurston, as plans evolve to develop the town’s Manset shorefront property known as the Hook property.

Article 46 is a bond issue of up to $850,000 for a planned sidewalk project on Main Street, from Apple Lane to The Village at Ocean’s End. Don Lagrange, the town’s former manager, announced in March 2017 that the town had been awarded $498,500 in grant funds from the Maine Department of Transportation for upgrades to sidewalk construction along the 1,500-foot section of Main Street. At the time, the project had an estimated cost of $842,000, which would have meant a $343,500 matching commitment from the town. Now, though, the estimated cost for the project has risen to about $1.25 million, and may require up to $850,000 in town funds.

Two zoning changes are also combined in one warrant article.

One change would reduce the minimum residential floor space in all zones to 250 square feet, from the current minimum of 500 square feet. The other change would update wording to reflect that the “Town of Southwest Harbor’s Sewer Department” is now the “Southwest Harbor Water and Sewer District (the District).”

Liz Graves

Liz Graves

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander reporter and editor Liz Graves grew up in California and came to Maine as a schooner sailor.

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