Casco budget increases proposed

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

CASCO — The Casco Finance Committee is poised to hold its first meeting in February to nail down the specifics of the 2013–14 budget.

But before that happens, the proposed budget is making an appearance at the Casco Board of Selectmen meetings.

“The budget process is a dynamic process that is going to be particularly difficult this year — given what is happening in the state,” Casco Town Manager Dave Morton said recently.

Casco Animal Control is one of the departments requesting a budget increase for the upcoming fiscal year. With the additions such as a new contract with the Westbrook-based Animal Refuge League, a mileage-reimbursement account, and an emergency fund, the AC budget would jump from $17,000 to $24,000.

The $7,000 increase represents the minimum needs for that department, according to Morton. He said that typically his approach would be to look for $7,000 to remove from animal control needs or another fund to even out the budget — and skirt away from any tax increases.

“My first reaction would be: ‘How do we cut $7,000 to afford this increase?’” Morton said.

However, necessity lies behind the requested increase for Animal Control, he said.

“I think what Susan (Fielder, animal control officer) and I looked at for the budget is pretty bare bones, and is a responsible budget,” he said.

“I hope the board will be supportive of the budget increase. The surplus fund is very workable without having negative impact on the whole budget,” Morton said.

The Animal Control budget is up $4,000 after the town switched its contract from Harvest Hills Animal Shelter to the Animal Refuge League. The switch occurred last summer after a cat-hoarding case, during which time Harvest Hills did not have available space to temporarily house the felines.

In the past, mileage reimbursement checks were withdrawn from the AC department’s payroll budget. However, with as much as 100 miles a week being driven by staff, it was easier to create a separate account, Morton said.

Also, the proposed budget includes an emergency fund should the town be faced with a local hoarding case or other unexpected expenses.

Selectman Ray Grant asked if the licensing fees and fines stemming from a newly-adopted animal control policy could cover the department’s needs.

Morton said that the “policy is fairly new, and not many fines have been collected.”

He added that the income received from licensing dogs with the town does remain in the AC budget.

Selectman Tracy Kimball said she would stand behind the raising the budget.

“The marked increase of activity alone is going to increase our expenses. Based on events that have happened, and ones that might occur, we should approve this increase,” Kimball said.

The Casco Public Library’s Board of Trustees has also requested an increase in order to operate on a budget of $61,800. The increase is 3% more than the current budget.

“The board of trustees understood that the sizable increase in the library budget was not received favorably by the public last year,” Morton said.

This year “they come back and said it would be easier on the town to have a small increase each year,” he said.

In the future, library representatives will talk to the finance committee about impending fundraisers and use of the endowment fund, Morton said.

Also discussed during the January workshop was the building maintenance fund — a line item that demands monetary fortification.

“We are looking at a significant increase because we have been delaying improvements. We normally put aside $15,000, but this year we have identified $40,000 worth of work,” Morton said on Tuesday.

The final request for the building maintenance budget will be up to the selectmen, he said. That maintenance fund covers all buildings, except the Casco fire stations.

On Jan. 22, Morton told the board that the current town office building was supposed to be a temporary solution; and with no new structure on the horizon, a few fix-its are on the list.

“The current floor tile is getting worn out. The floor needs a coat of paint. The concrete below is creating dust in the air, and dust is bad for the computers. The walls need to be painted. It is a town building, and needs to be up to standards,” he said. “The front door needs to be removed. It was driven into once.”

The town-owned building, which formerly housed TD Bank, has basement issues.

Estimates reveal that it would cost “about $2,600 to seal the insulation downstairs. The basement was never finished — just fiberglass backs. The fiberglass insulation comes down, and gets on the records being stored there or falls on people doing research. Also, the basement needs permanent lighting,” Morton said.

He explained that the budget numbers being reviewed at the selectmen’s workshops are preliminary. Also, a formal proposed budget will not be available as a document until the finance committee begins meeting in February. At that time, proposed budget documents will be located on the town’s website.

 

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