‘Catch-up’ year for Bridgton budget

 

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

As things now stand, Bridgton’s proposed $6.83 million municipal budget is up by 7% over last year, with a gross increase of $457,000 in appropriations.

But if that seems alarming, consider that the net increase, after revenues, is 3%, and the ever-frugal Budget Committee and Selectmen are not yet done sharpening their pencils. Although the two boards, in weekly joint meetings that began Feb. 17, have reached consensus on sizable cuts to the manager’s budget, they still have some big-ticket items to consider, such as a $105,000 operational budget for the Ham Complex and $100,000 for a new playground and restrooms at the Salmon Point Beach Campground.

Town Manager Bob Peabody has put together a “catch-up” budget for 2016–2017, following last year’s flat-funded budget. Seen in that light, he said, the projected increase in the mil rate is just 19 cents higher than it was two years ago. The projected increase is 50 cents higher, however, than last year.

Staffing increases

This year’s budget is unusual in that it includes proposals for increased staffing in several town departments. The positions that have received preliminary blessing in the joint review to date are as follows:

  • A full-time fire chief, to work out of a new office at the Central Fire Station;
  • A full-time patrol officer, to bring the police department’s officer complement up to nine persons, including the police chief;
  • A part-time grant writer to write grants for economic development.

Still to be decided are the following additional staffing positions:

  • A full-time administrative assistant (increasing from 32 to 40 hours per week), to be shared by the economic development, code enforcement and finance departments as well as supporting the deputy town manager and town clerk;
  • Two seasonal positions as the Ham Complex.

Capital budget

Peabody also has included several sizable capital requests that the joint review panel has approved, as follows:

  • $500,000 for paving projects;
  • $36,610 for a new roof at the public works garage;
  • $110,000 for a new or refurbished public works truck;
  • $30,000 to replace Engine 5, plus $200,000 from the fire apparatus reserve;
  • $15,000 to refurbish the fire department’s reel truck, plus $45,000 from the fire apparatus reserve;
  • $115,000 to be supplemented with $100,000 from other sources to complete the Town Hall project, for a total estimated cost of $220,000;
  • $141,955 for paving at the Transfer Station on Willett Road, which reflects the net cost after a $39,530 ecomaine disbursement.

A proposal to spend $76,300 to repave the sidewalk in North Bridgton Village was rejected in favor of reaching out to Bridgton Academy to see if the school will share in the costs.

The joint panel has not yet decided on the following capital requests:

  • $75,000 for restrooms and $25,000 for a new playground at the Salmon Point Campground;
  • $40,000 for a new town website, retaining a branding consultant and for marketing the town.

The budget also includes a 3% cost of living increase for all non-union employees.

Long-term debt payments total $118,254 in the budget to pay principal and interest on loans for two public works trucks and repairs to Town Hall. Total revenues of around $2.2 million are up by a total of $77,000, and Peabody is proposing to take $125,000 from surplus to also offset the taxpayer burden.

The Budget Committee and Selectmen met Wednesday and will meet again if needed on Wednesday, March 16, at 4:30 p.m. in the Selectmen’s meeting room.

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