Budget up 4%, taxes 2.6%

BAR HARBOR — The four percent increase in the proposed town budget for the coming year will be partly offset by new revenue, according to a memo released by Town Manager Cornell Knight.

The proposed draft budget for fiscal year 2020 includes an estimated 2.6 percent increase in the tax rate. That means the annual tax bill on a median-valued home worth $289,300 would go up $87, according to budget documents. FY20 runs from July of 2019 through June 2020.

Total town operating and capital expenses increase four percent this year, according to Knight’s budget memo. This includes a 2.6 percent increase in municipal operations, and capital improvements (CIP) funding.

Other increases include town legal expenses, code enforcement budget, and Parks and Recreation pest and fertilizing control costs.

Also requested from the Chamber of Commerce is an increase in fireworks and holiday decorations. Chamber Executive Director Martha Searchfield told town councilors at a Jan. 22 budget workshop that the fireworks fund had not been increased for several years.

Knight estimates the town’s assessment for the Hancock County budget will

increase 2.9 percent.

Total school expenses for the town, Bar Harbor School Department, AOS and high school are expected to rise. The town’s contribution to the high school is expected to increase 0.9 percent. The Conners Emerson budget will increase 5.7 percent to cover building upgrades. School officials explained to town councilors in a Jan. 24 budget meeting that upgrades in fiscal year 2020 will focus on improvements to the water main serving the school.

There is a new budget line of $28,000 this year for vacation rental monitoring from an outside vendor. The planning department budget increased 24 percent to cover the new planning director’s salary, and consulting fees for the planning department to get assistance with ordinance amendments.

The town’s revenues are projected to rise by 5.7 percent, offsetting some of the budget increase. A notable new revenue source is the annual registration fee on vacation rentals, budgeted to earn $120,000 in the fiscal year.

Knight’s memo also explained the town will not have to tap into its unassigned fund balance as much as it has in recent years. The proposed budget includes $55,000 from reserves, down from $70,000 last year.

Councilors are reviewing the proposed budget. The warrant committee has been meeting weekly since Feb. 8, working through the budget and other warrant articles. The council and warrant committee are slated to meet together Tuesday, March 26.

Becky Pritchard
Former Islander reporter Becky Pritchard covered the town of Bar Harbor and was a park ranger in Acadia for six seasons.
Becky Pritchard

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