Bridgton may see $632,000 increase in school share

NW 39 brid budget

SHARP PENCILS — Bridgton Budget Committee Chairman Steve Stevens gave Selectmen an overview of recommendations Tuesday. Seated behind him were committee members Bill Vincent, Venessa Jones and Greg Jones.

 

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

Bridgton’s share of the SAD 61 School District budget is projected to increase by around $450,000 in the next fiscal year, and another $182,000 increase would result in a total $632,000 school share increase if the School Board decides to reopen Crooked River Elementary School as a Grade 4–5 school.

Bridgton Selectmen received the news at their Tuesday meeting, during which the Budget Committee recommended cutting around $245,000 from the municipal budget for Fiscal Year 2014-2015.

Selectman Paul Hoyt said it was frustrating to have Bridgton get hit with such an increase in the school share while noting how carefully the Budget Committee has tried to reduce municipal spending in every possible area.

“We do so much there comes a point where we can’t take more” from the municipal budget without affecting basic services, he said. “People need to go (to the school board) and voice their opinion. The taxpayers of Bridgton need to know that the biggest chunk of the increase is going to be on the school.”

The School Board has taken a preliminary vote to reopen the Crooked River School, but that vote is not yet final, SAD 61 Board member Karen Eller told Selectmen. If it becomes final, the school reopening would add another $500,000 to the school budget, of which Bridgton’s $182,000 share is equivalent to an 18-cent increase in the tax rate.

A $632,000 increase in the town’s share of school spending would result in a 63-cent increase in the tax rate, increasing the mil rate to around $14.26 per thousand of valuation.

Budget cuts

The Budget Committee, comprised of Steve Stevens, chair, Venessa Jones, Greg Jones and Bill Vincent, has recommended the following cuts/changes to Selectmen, who will begin their review March 24 in preparation for an April 22 public hearing:

• Fire Department — The budget for the West Bridgton Fire Station was cut from $33,000 to $20,000, because committee members said they didn’t receive enough evidence to justify pursuing an expansion at this time. Replacement of a fire engine was cut by $57,500, from $132,500 to $75,000, with the recommendation that the department seek out grants and use a short-term loan in FY 2016 to pay for the balance. The committee also recommended that training and call pay be increased by $1 per hour, not the $2 increase requested. Chairman Steve Stevens said the committee thinks the department should base call pay on a volunteer’s level of certification and not on a flat rate across the board. The committee also cut a $1,600 request to fund the fire department’s annual volunteer appreciation party, believing that any parties should be open to all town employees and not held separately by department.

• Police Department — Grants have previously funded two video cameras for cruisers, and the committee added $4,700 to allow the department to pursue additional grants to put cameras in all the cruisers, under a “buy-one-get-one” program. “This will provide another level of professionalism and protection for our officers,” the committee’s report said.

• Bridgton Economic Development Corporation — Due to the BEDC’s cutting ties with the town at the beginning of FY 2014, the committee recommends eliminating their $20,000 funding request. The report stated that the BEDC was “going dormant at the beginning of 2015,” which Selectman Paul Hoyt questioned in light of a BEDC letter to the town indicating a willingness to work with the town on the Memorial School redevelopment project. Stevens said the committee hadn’t been aware of the letter.

• Planning/Economic Development — The committee cut a $20,000 request for shelving, and suggested seeking out alternative methods for document storage

 

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