TURNER — Officials set the property tax rate Monday night for the coming fiscal year at $13.40 per $1,000 of assessed value, 3 cents lower than last year’s rate.

The municipal 2009-10 budget of $6.67 million is $488,609 less than last year’s budget. The reduction is due to state revenue losses and the potential loss of 40 percent of the town’s excise tax revenue if a statewide referendum passes this fall. The referendum initiative proposes cutting vehicle excise tax in half and
eliminating the sales tax and first three years of excise tax on the purchase of a new hybrid vehicle or any other vehicle that gets more than 40 miles per gallon.

While the proposal is estimated to save drivers between $70 million and $88 million
a year, it will reduce an important funding source for many municipalities. “The excise tax (proposal) will be a major blow,” Turner Town Manager Eva Leavitt said.

The new budget includes county tax of $450,157.58, educational appropriation of $4,033,908, a municipal appropriation of $2,092,215 and an overlay of $98,076.14, totaling $6,674356.72.

About $335,000 of the budget reduction comes from Public Works Department budgets for winter and summer roads, Public Works Garage and paving and construction. The school assessment was down by $136,955 and the remaining $16,966 comes from other departments, Leavitt said.

Leavitt said it’s unlikely the town can continue to cut the budget, given the need to fund essential services.

In a statement Tuesday, she said she and selectmen, along with the Budget Committee, will “continue to analyze the municipal needs and make sincere efforts to keep spending under control. We watch with an interested eye what the state is doing with their budget and hope that their actions do not filter down causing our community to be forced to decrease our level of service to our citizens.”

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