MOUNT DESERT — If a town’s budget for 2020-2021 includes raises for public employees, those raises can go into effect July 1, the start of the fiscal year, even if voters haven’t approved the new budget by then.
Mount Desert’s annual town meeting, scheduled for May 5, has been postponed to “a time uncertain.”
A bill passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor last month authorizes municipalities to continue spending at the level that voters approved last spring for the 2019-2020 fiscal year. That level of spending can continue for up to three months, ending Sept. 30.
Mount Desert Treasurer Kathi Mahar told the Board of Selectmen last week, “You take the total amount budgeted (for the current year), divide it by 12 months, and you’re allowed to spend three months’ worth of that budget’s total amount.”
She said the proportionate level of spending applies to a town department’s total budget, not to individual line items. So, a town department could spend less for one purpose and more for another, such as employee raises, so long as the three-month spending total does not exceed one-fourth of the department’s total budget that voters approved for the current year.
The money would simply be “borrowed” from the budget for the new fiscal year.
Selectman Rick Mooers asked Mahar when town employees could get the pay raises that the new budget calls for and that ordinarily would go into effect July 1.
“The law doesn’t say you have to conform to salary schedules for the previous year,” Mahar said. “So, for example, if a union contract says they are entitled to ‘X’ amount of dollars July 1, then you aren’t precluded from doing that, as long as (overall department spending) doesn’t go over the three months’ worth total.”
Fourteen of the town’s public works employees are members of the Teamsters union. They are currently in the second year of a three-year contract, which called for them to receive a raise of $1 an hour for the first year, 75 cents for the second year and 50 cents for the third year. That third-year raise is scheduled to go into effect July 1.