Four percent mil rate increase in proposed town budget

SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Selectmen put their stamp of approval on a proposed budget that shows a mil rate increase of four percent for fiscal year 2021, which is scheduled to go before the Warrant Committee for review.

After three days of conversations regarding the FY21 budget, selectmen approved the $4,446,501 budget at their Jan. 28 meeting. The proposed budget would translate to a mil rate of 14.52, four percent greater than last year’s rate of 13.95.

There were several small increases, including about $20,000 more in the community service organization budget split between the Mount Height Cemetery Association and Southwest Harbor-Tremont Nursing Association (the ambulance service).

Other larger increases were due to infrastructure work for the town’s water and sewer lines. This year, work was done on Clark Point Road, Village Green Way and Cedar Lane to replace aging pipes, repair a bulkhead, as well as sidewalk replacement and paving.

An increase in the town’s debt service line includes an initial payment of $163,000 towards the $2.6 million bond approved by voters for the work.

More work needs to be done on Main Street to switch from six-inch water mains to 12-inch pipes that were installed but have yet to be utilized. There were several breaks in the older, smaller water mains last year that needed to be repaired.

Southwest Harbor Water and Sewer District Manager Steve Kenney recently submitted a letter to selectmen requesting $87,000 for that work and lining manholes along the public system to slow ground water infiltration. That money is a portion of $120,000 that will come out of the town’s reserve account for infrastructure repairs.

There is a $124,000 increase in the FY21 budget’s reserve accounts line, a portion of which is $100,000 to be raised for the water and sewer reserve account.

Selectmen voted down a request for a third police cruiser that would have been assigned to Police Chief Alan Brown, taking about $38,000 from the proposed CIP account amount. That account also includes money for fire truck improvements and shows an increase of about $43,000.

An increase in the town’s fire department budget is due to a $7,500 increase in the salary line. Fire Chief Tom Chisholm, who works one, 10-hour day a week now, will go to two, eight-hour days beginning in July. That amount also includes an increase for the volunteer stipend, which maxes out just below $600 per year.

Sarah Hinckley

Sarah Hinckley

Former Islander reporter Sarah Hinckley covered the towns of Southwest Harbor, Tremont and neighboring islands.

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