TOPSHAM, Maine — In a town meeting Wednesday that took less than 90 minutes, voters approved components of an $8.5 million budget for next year, along with a handful of other items.
Eighty-six voters attended, representing 1.3 percent of those registered.
The fiscal year 2015 municipal spending plan is due to rise 0.86 percent. With assessments to School Administrative District 75 (up 8.63 percent) and Sagadahoc County (3.14 percent) factored in, and with revenues and reimbursements subtracted, Topsham’s tax rate could rise 4.19 percent, to reach $17.35 per $1,000 of property valuation.
Of the tax commitment, 53 percent goes toward school expenses, 38 percent to the town and 9 percent to the county, according to information the town provided.
“As good as the municipality is doing on controlling its expenditures, there’s a counterweight — that’s revenues,” Town Manager Rich Roedner explained, noting that one of Topsham’s largest revenue sources — state revenue sharing — is decreasing significantly.
“What that represents to the town of Topsham is a decrease this year, over what our revenue should be from the state, of $638,000,” Roedner said. “Since 2007 it’s a cumulative total of $2.4 million. So I’ll leave it to you folks to decide what we could do with an extra $638,000, or $2.4 million, in terms of roads, schools, programs, what have you.”
Voters approved borrowing $760,000 to fund equipment, including a new fire engine, plow truck and sidewalk plow. Those replace “existing equipment that in some cases is as old as 25 years,” the manager explained.
Included in capital projects funding is $350,000 for road construction and $100,000 for Bay Park drainage engineering.
Along with approving several other budget articles, residents authorized the town to apply for Community Development Block Grants on behalf of two businesses.
The Maine Harvest Co. seeks $240,000 in funding, while Wicked Joe Coffee Roasting Co. would like $270,000. Wicked Joe is in the process of fitting out its section of the former U.S. Navy Annex Commissary, while Maine Harvest plans to occupy the rest of the building.
“The state is actually giving us the money; we then give it to the company, and the company is obligated to create a certain number of jobs based on how much money they’re receiving,” Roedner said last month.
If the businesses fail to reach those goals, the town must repay the money, he said. The town’s agreement with each of the businesses, made before accepting the grant money, would assure the money is repaid if the businesses fail to comply with the terms, the manager said.
Voters also supported an ordinance regulating mobile food services, as well as a master plan for the Route 196 corridor that serves as an amendment to Topsham’s Comprehensive Plan.