Sebago Reduces Town Budget

By Allen Crabtree

Special to The News

SEBAGO — The Sebago Board of Selectmen, the Sebago Budget Committee and the Sebago Capital Investment Program (CIP) Committee will be recommending to the town voters a municipal operating budget for FY2012-2013 that is nearly $100,000 less than last year’s budget.

“At our June 2 annual town meeting, we will be asking the voters to approve a net operating budget of $1,258,660, a decrease of $98,237 from last year’s budget,” said Board of Selectmen Chairman Ann Farley. “The budget committee and the CIP Committee have worked hard with the board of selectmen to bring in a budget that provides needed town services to our citizens, but does so in an as efficient and cost-conscious manner as possible.”

The town operating budget has three main components: expenses, contributions to the CIP reserve accounts, and projected revenues.

Expenses to run town government and provide services to citizens (e.g. — roads, snow plowing, fire and rescue, town office) are budgeted at $1,800,760, a decrease of $17,020 from last year.

The FY2012-2013 expenses are lower than the last two years, and only slightly higher than the FY2009-2010 budget. Included in the expense portion of the budget is a 3% pay raise for town employees, the first pay raise in three years.

Monies set aside in the CIP to save for future vehicle replacement and major long-term projects total $188,472 this year (these are included in the $1,800,760 expenses above). The CIP Reserve Accounts are savings for the future so that when plow trucks, fire trucks and the town ambulance have reached the end of their useful life there will be money in the bank to replace them. The CIP contribution is down slightly from the $192,724 set aside last year.

The revenues flowing to the town (e.g. from excise taxes, permit fees, dog licenses, transfer station fees, etc.) are projected to increase from $485,337 to $542,100.

The Undesignated Fund Balance

At the town meeting, voters will also be asked to authorize that up to $6,000 be taken from the Undesignated Fund Balance (UFB) to make the final payment on the town’s long-term debt to the Regional Waste System (RWS). The town incurred this long-term debt obligation when it was going to be part of the RWS project.

Funds were for preliminary planning and engineering of the project but it was never built. It has taken until now to pay off the debt. This is the only long-term debt obligation that the town currently has.

As of the end of June 2011, the town had $1,660,275 in the UFB account. The UFB is essentially the town’s “rainy day fund,” calculated at $1,300,000, which is there to cover any catastrophic losses or unexpected losses in revenues that the town may incur. Sebago has now accumulated funds in excess of the $1,300,000 needed for the “rainy day fund” and these UFB funds are available for spending at the discretion of (and with the approval of) the town’s voters. The funds in the UFB are separate from those in reserve accounts (such as CIP accounts) or capital assets, which are restricted from general spending

SAD 61 and County budgets

The Sebago municipal operating budget represents only about 1/3 of the total town budget — the balance is the Cumberland County budget and the SAD 61 budget.

Although the county budget is projected to increase from $217,117 to $224,774, an increase of $7,657, the SAD 61 budget is projected to decline. Based on current numbers from the school district, Sebago’s share of supporting the school system will decline from $3,216,331 to $3,103,084, a savings to Sebago taxpayers of $113,247.

Altogether, that means that the total Sebago budget from all areas is projected to be $4,586,518 for FY2012-2013 or $203,827 less than last year’s budget.

Sebago Voters — Now It Is Your Turn

If the three budgets are approved and these numbers above hold, selectmen will be able to consider lowering the property tax rate from its current $13.60 mill level.

There are three very important budget events in May and June that Sebago voters should attend to have their voices heard and votes counted:

• May 15, Tuesday, 6:30 p.m. at Lake Region High School, Budget Public Hearing. Voters from Sebago, Casco, Naples and Bridgton will be asked to vote on individual warrant items in the proposed SAD 61 budget. The hearing is an “open warrant” system, which means that budget line items may be increased or decreased by a vote from the floor. The budget that emerges from this public meeting will be presented to voters in the four towns in a referendum for an “up” or “down” vote.

• May 22, Tuesday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Sebago Town Offices, SAD 61 Referendum Vote. Sebago voters will be asked to cast their ballots on the entire SAD 61 budget to approve or deny it.

• June 2, Saturday, 9 a.m. at the Sebago Town Hall, Annual Town Meeting. Sebago voters will be asked to discuss and then vote on individual warrant items, including the proposed Sebago municipal operating budget. This meeting operates under the “closed warrant” system, which means that budget items may only be decreased or eliminated by a vote from the floor. The budget that emerges from town meeting will take effect on July 1, 2012 through July 30, 2013.

Next time: the proposed Sebago Fire and Rescue Building.

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