Originally published in Castine Patriot, May 1, 2014
Castine meeting warrant lacks final numbers, for now
Selectmen to meet May 2, hold public meeting May 5
Ted Lameyer walks the audience through sections of the latest iteration of a Main Street design during a public meeting in Castine, Maine on April 22, 2014.
by Anne Berleant
Town meeting convenes on Saturday, May 10, at 8:30 a.m. Municipal warrant articles will be heard first, followed by school articles. Town reports are available at Emerson Hall, but will not be mailed to residents.
The combined town and school budgets for 2015 total $3,426,488 at press time.
However, three warrant articles on borrowing money for infrastructure improvements, installing underground power and a water filtration upgrade have yet to be finalized.
These projects will run into the millions of dollars and, if approved, would be financed over periods ranging from eight years (street design) to 20 years (underground power).
“We’ve been waiting for the estimates to come in from the engineer, and counsel to approve the wording of the articles,” said town financial officer Karen Motycka. Selectmen plan to meet on Friday, May 2, to finalize those articles.
Selectmen will hold a public informational meeting on the warrant on Monday, May 5.
Final town budget unresolved
The proposed infrastructure improvements are estimated at $4.61 million and would add another $455,000 or so to the annual budget in debt service payment for the next eight years. Underground utilities, estimated at around $1 million, would add $50,000 if financed over a 20-year period. The full cost of water filtration improvements is estimated at $490,000. More information on the cost and budget impact of these projects should be available at the public informational meeting.
Those big-ticket items aside, the proposed 2015 town budget currently stands at $2,000,084, a number $15,581 higher than this year’s budget. Of that amount, $1,439,872 will be raised through taxation.
Other income includes contributions by Maine Maritime Academy of $96,000 for public safety and $35,000 for roads and infrastructure debt service. Witherle Memorial Library, per its agreement with the town, will cover $78,456 of its $155,111, from its investment fund plus $1,801 in fees and donations. State and federal revenue and grants is estimated at $53,000. The transfer station will raise $69,000 in fees and $120,000 will come from auto excise tax.
Capital improvement requests total $165,956, an increase of $17,256. Proposed harbor improvements and maintenance account for $49,000 of that amount, following an engineer’s assessment of needed capital improvements. “They’ve been left undone for too long,” town manager Dale Abernethy had commented at a March 3 selectmen’s meeting when discussing budget proposals by the harbor committee.
All other municipal budget lines are either slightly down, slightly up or flat. Requests for funding economic development consultants stand at $20,000.
One warrant article on The Breeze lease, so far
The Breeze is the subject of Article 33, which seeks to authorize selectmen to negotiate and enter into a lease for The Breeze when the current lease expires on December 31, 2014, with a public meeting prior to the signing of the new lease.
The 2014 lease terms of The Breeze are the subject of a petition circulating in Castine. The petition asks that two articles be added to the warrant. One would prohibit the town from charging businesses for “cleaning, stocking or maintenance” of public facilities; the second would require the town to refund any money collected in 2014 for those purposes.
The Breeze rent jumped to $4,500 in 2014 from its previous $1,300 based on the cost to the town of maintaining the public bathrooms. Their upkeep had previously been a provision of the lease.
However, no citizen petitions have been submitted to the town as of April 28, according to Motycka.
“Until it’s here, it’s a non issue,” she said.
School budget up 2.8 percent
The proposed school budget stands at $1,426,404, an increase of $38,930 from the current year or 2.8 percent.
Sharp rises in teacher health insurance and retirement costs, totaling $19,630, and a $8,570 bump in special education costs are behind most of the increase. The proposed budget for regular instructional services is $830,304. Special education costs, which lie outside board control, total $149,750.
Nearly all other lines are slightly up.
However, the overall increases are partially offset by $11,000 less for instructional stipends, plus a $13,000 drop in the operations and maintenance budget, after completing repairs, painting and security measures this year.
A projected 9-percent hike in health insurance costs and a new state requirement that shifts teacher retirement contributions from the state to the local school district has impacted all Union 93 schools.
Public informational meeting: Monday, May 5, 4 p.m., Emerson Hall
Town Meeting: Saturday, May 10, 8:30 a.m., Emerson Hall.