Budget holds tax increase

TREMONT — Voters here will consider a $1.86 million municipal budget and $3.52 million in educational costs at the May 12 open town meeting.

Selectmen on Monday reviewed the budgets and the draft warrant for the annual meeting.

The proposed municipal budget is $136,451, or 7.9 percent, higher than for this year. Selectmen, for the most part, had little to quibble about regarding the increase.

“Going through our budget, I didn’t see anything that could be substantially reduced,” chairman Kathi Thurston said.

Most of the increase comes from two items, the budgets for administration and public works.

Administration, which includes salaries and benefits for employees working in the town office and other costs associated with the office, has been budgeted at $561,000, an increase of almost $56,700. Almost all of the increase is in the salary and benefit lines. Some of it has to do with the hiring of Dana Reed as town manager.

Reed was appointed town manager last week, a job he has held on an interim basis since June after Carl Young resigned for the position. Reed is being paid about $85,000 annually. Additionally, the town is to contribute $425 per week to Reed’s health saving account. Young was paid $60,000 per year and did not use the town’s health insurance coverage.

The proposed $487,300 budget for public works is $71,000 higher than this year. The jump comes in the line for equipment, which shows an $83,500 increase. The proposed total increase is less than this amount because of reductions in other lines of the public works budget.

Education expenses make up the majority of property taxes. The budgets for the Tremont Consolidated School and assessment for Mount Desert Island High School combined account for 71 percent of each tax dollar, Reed reported.

School officials were at the meeting to discuss the $2.48 million budget for the consolidated school.

The good news, according to school superintendent Howard Colter, is that earlier estimates of a 10 percent increase in health insurance costs paid by the school are lower than expected. The budget now reflects a five percent increase. When the final figure for an increase comes in, taxpayers might even see additional savings here, Colter said.

Along with the five percent health insurance increase, other items contributing to the additional $93,500 needed for the school include an average 2.7 percent increase in salaries, $5,500 for library services and the need to hire an additional ed-tech for special education, Colter said.

The town assessment for the high school is $1.04 million or $82,260 more than for this year.

The town also must contribute almost $210,000 for the operations of county government.

If voters approve of the total budget as proposed, the property tax rate would go from $8.84 per $1,000 of valuation to $9.36. As the result, the owner of a $250,000 property would see an additional $130 on their tax bill.

Mark Good

Mark Good

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Mark Good

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