Casco finds funds for debts to ease mil rate increase
By Dawn De Busk
CASCO — The goal is to make the inevitable mil rate increase a little easier on Casco taxpayers.
On Tuesday, the town’s public officials voted to use the bid premium from the bonds sold by the Town of Casco and also unspent funds from this fiscal year to repay the town’s debt service.
Essentially, the town still has the same debt service bill, but it is lowering the amount of money that will need to be raised through taxation.
The Casco Board of Selectmen unanimously approved a plan to use $165,000 from the bond bid premium and about $40,000 from the carry-forward funds. The carry-forwards are accounts in which money was raised but not spent.
According to Casco Town Manager Dave Morton, “When we sold our bonds, a premium was given. We could use it for road repair or we could use it to pay down the bonds.”
“I propose we use the premium for the debt service,” he said. “It will be one-time fix but it would cut in half the effect on the tax rate for debt service.”
“In addition, we could carry-forward the funds that we didn’t use and raised last year,” he told the board.
Between those two sources of funding, the Town of Casco has “almost $200,000 we can apply to reduce it,” Morton said.
He discussed another option, which was paying $100,000 toward the debt this year and then paying $100,000 the following year. The end result would be a sudden spike of about 60 cents to the mil rate, he said.
Chairman Holly Hancock asked if there would be any benefit to the town to set aside the $100,000 this year.
Morton responded, “I think it is best to give the taxpayers the best break we can.”
At the 2016 Town Meeting, the voters passed a $2.5 million infrastructure bond for roads.
“People weren’t paying the tax bill last year. I don’t think everyone gets it until the bill comes in the mail,” Morton said.
He said using the bond bid premium was a good solution for ultimately keeping the mil rate increase lower.
“You would look at 30 cents this year and 30 cents next year,” he said. “Instead of 60 cents this year.”
The selectmen weighed in on the option.
“I don’t see any advantage of holding onto that [$100,000]. I am suggesting we make a motion to do this,” Hancock said.
Mary Fernandes agreed.
“It’s a less of a blow to taxpayers,” Fernandes said. “There are a lot of people who are on fixed incomes. That is a hit.”
On the other hand, residents have a new town hall, expanded green space and road reconstruction taking place around town.
“The other thing is look at our municipal budget: It hasn’t changed from last year’s [budget] except for the debt service,” Morton said. “We have done a good job trying to balance all that.”