Originally published in Castine Patriot, February 27, 2020
Penobscot municipal budget up but taxation down
by Eli Forman
Though the town of Penobscot’s municipal budget has increased from last year, the amount collected from taxation looks to decrease for the 2020-21 cycle.
Coming in at $621,541, the budget is up $46,960 from last year’s total of $574,581. Of this, $282,566 is directly from property taxation, with the rest made up from surplus, excise tax, agent fees and interest on the town’s accounts.
By comparison, about $333,881 of last year’s municipal budget was raised directly from taxation, meaning that Penobscot taxpayers are being asked for approximately $51,315 less in 2020-21 despite an overall increase in the municipal budget.
According to Chairman of Selectmen Harold Hatch, this was a decision made by the board of selectmen in an effort “not to tax people for money that would go into surplus.” He noted that by applying around $45,000 in town revenue to pay for line items previously funded through taxation, the town will be able to keep the mill rate down by approximately a quarter of a million dollars.
Hatch said that a $20,000 increase in snow removal is a major factor in the budget hike, noting that the town needed around 800 yards of salt and sand to replace what was used last year. The full amount is $170,000 and, as it was last year, this money will be raised from motor vehicle excise. The reserve balance stands at 25,302.
Hatch also listed a $3,500 increase in software expenses for the TRIO program as an additional factor, which the town hopes to use to collect vehicle registration and property tax payments online and by credit card.
According to the Town Meeting warrant, these software expenses would be paid for through the state tree growth reimbursement rather than taxation.
Additionally, the town finance committee has increased its recommended amount for the Peninsula Ambulance Corps by $5,595 to meet their full request for 2020-21, to be allocated from taxation.
The recommended appropriation for the Fire Department remains the same at $32,500 from taxation. Payment number four for the new fire truck loan is also the same as last year at $23,700. This will be allocated from surplus.
In terms of decreases, Hatch pointed out that the amount requested for the transfer station reserve account has decreased by $5,000 due to a “decent” reserve balance. With $30,183 in that reserve account, the town seeks to add $75,000.