Budget ready for Naples town meeting

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

NAPLES — The Town of Naples was able to keep to a bare minimum any increases in the municipal budget.

The proposed municipal budget increased by only 5.24%, or by $167,000, from the 2015-16 budgets.

The minor budget increase along with a healthy surplus will allow the Town of Naples to keep its tax rate the same, according to Naples Town Manager Ephrem Paraschak.

The final approval of the budget will happen Wednesday night at Naples Town Meeting. The annual meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the town gymnasium.

Likely, the item of most interest to residents will be putting money from the surplus fund toward the purchase of two items for the Naples Fire and Rescue Department: A new ambulance and a composite tank for the tanker truck. Those budgetary items are reflected in Warrant Article 21, the Capital Improvement Projects account. In Article 21, it is proposed that $172,000 be used for the purchase of an ambulance, and $40,000 be applied toward a new tank for the tank truck. The money will come from the Unassigned Fund Balance, also known as the surplus.

Because surplus funds are being used, the vehicle upgrades will not impact taxes.

“Those are going to be funded via surplus so we aren’t going to raise any taxes,” Paraschak said.

He anticipates the cost of the new ambulance to be about $215,000. So far, the Capital Reserve account for the ambulance has about $85,000, which has been set aside over a period of years, he said.

If the purchase is approved by voters, the new ambulance will replace a 1997 ford ambulance.

“Nineteen ninety-seven — that is when the town bought it new. They are still using it.

It is just not as reliable,” Paraschak said.

The department has owned its tank truck since 2000. Over time, rust has attacked the metal water tank. For $40,000, the department can replace it with a composite body tank.

“There is nothing wrong with the truck. It will last another 15 to 20 years,” Paraschak said.

Warrant Article 21 is recommended by both the Naples Board of Selectmen and the Naples Budget Committee.

Related to fire safety, there are two ordinances facing voters at Town Meeting this year. Warrant Article 49 is called the Town of Naples Fire Alarm System Ordinance and Warrant Article 50 is entitled the Town of Naples Key Lock Box Ordinance.

Article 49 “is requiring commercial fire alarms to be put in buildings more than 2,000 square feet, and multi-family units that are more than 2,000 square feet. But, it is primarily for commercial businesses.”

“Bridgton, Casco and Raymond have these ordinances. We are playing catch up,” Paraschak said.

Warrant Article 50 “is a complementary ordinance. Some businesses will be grandfathered in. If you are required to have a fire alarm, the business key goes in a lock box that the fire department has access to. So, if a fire alarm is going off and the owner is in Portland, the key lock box allows secured access to building without fire department forcing entry into building to turn off the alarm,” Paraschak said.

Copies of the proposed ordinances are available at the Town Clerk’s office.

Warrant Article 66 applies to the recreation department. If approved by voters, it would allow the recreation department to use revenue from fees for programs to cover cost of popular offerings.

“Currently, the recreation department can bring in revenue. But they cannot spend it. They have to stay within budget.

With the recreation department, if more kids sign up, the costs rise exponentially. For the senior (citizens) trips, if so many people sign up that we need a second bus, the department could do that,” Paraschak said.

“It would be set up so that if programs are successful, they can use the money” to cover costs, he said.

Warrant Article 14 is the re-appropriation of surplus funds to cover a shortfall that occurred with payments of money borrowed for the purchase of Kent’s Land.

“Article 14 — that is from the unanticipated payment of a second bond taken out for Kent’s Landing. We are going to appropriate money for that. We are not late on the bill,” Paraschak said.

Warrant Article 65 is something Naples residents have seen for a number of years: the use of surplus funds to offset the amount of money needed from property tax revenue.

“You can use money from a healthy surplus to pay for projects or to keep the mil rate low,” he said. “Lowering the mil rate — Naples has been doing that for a while. If I pluck it out, there would be a mil rate,” Paraschak said.

The town’s elected officials could choose to wean the town off of using its surplus funds in this manner, Paraschak said.

“That depends on whether or not the board of selectmen feels comfortable about the surplus. We are on the low end of recommended amount (which is) two to three months’ worth of operating expenses,” he said.

“But, we are in the zone,” Paraschak said.

“A surplus helps the town with cash flow at certain times of the year. Tax payments are fairly predictable around when they are due. The middle of the summer and the middle of the winter are leaner times of the year” as far as incoming revenue from property taxes, he said.

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