MOUNT DESERT — The town can’t pay outside agencies for services they provide to area residents until enough tax money comes in. Tax money can’t come in until the tax bills go out. Tax bills can’t go out until the budget is passed at Town Meeting. And that meeting won’t be held for at least another month. (See story on page 1.)
This year’s proposed municipal budget includes $316,887 for outside organizations and service agencies.
“They get a letter saying they will get it as soon as cash flow allows,” said town Treasurer Kathi Mahar.
“Most years we pay them in the first week in August. But we don’t feel that we have the ability to do that until the budget is passed and we can get those tax bills out. They are usually out by July 1.
“We get about 90 percent of our tax money in the first month the bills are out, and that’s what carries us the rest of the year.”
Mahar said that if Town Meeting is held in mid-August and tax bills go out immediately after that, the town probably could pay the outside agencies during the first week of September.
“I feel bad because I know they are in the same boat as the town,” she said. “But I have to be careful that I have enough money to pay our payroll and our bills.”
The town’s proposed payments to outside organizations this year include $88,000 for Neighborhood House and its programs for youth and adults, $58,000 for village improvement societies, $35,500 for libraries, $27,500 for the Mount Desert Chamber of Commerce and $14,000 for the Island Explorer bus system.
The Island Explorer isn’t running this year, so it isn’t clear how much, if any, funding the bus system will get from Mount Desert and other area towns.
“We’re not sure what to expect, understanding that their budgets are, like ours, in precarious positions,” said Paul Murphy, executive director of Downeast Transportation, which operates the Island Explorer.
“Even though Island Explorer is not likely to operate this season, it will incur somewhere around $1 million in expenses.”
Anne-Marie Hart, executive director of Neighborhood House, said Tuesday, “We definitely need the requested $88,000, but a few months’ delay isn’t going to crimp us.
“We were able to get a PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) loan, which helped greatly during that first round. And we had a generous response to our spring appeal mailing.”
Hart said a delay in receiving town funds “is not going to cause me to have to lay off anybody or disturb programing.”
Seventeen social service agencies are slated to receive a total of $85,887 in town funds. Of that, $35,000 is earmarked for the Mount Desert Nursing Association.
Nursing Association Director Heather Lewis said Tuesday that her organization should be fine financially, even if the town’s payment arrives later than usual.
“Through the CARES Act and through CMS (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) we’ve been afforded some help with up-front money, and they are paying our ‘request for anticipated payments’ without a 14-day hold on them,” she said. “So, we’re getting reimbursed in a speedy manner for the patients we’ve been seeing.
“I think we’ll be fine if we don’t get the town money right away.”
Mahar said that, in addition to the delay in tax money coming into the town, “We’ve taken a hit with excise taxes. The state keeps deferring when you have to get your automobile registered, so we’re down $100,000 for that.”