MECHANIC FALLS — Town Manager John Hawley told the Town Council on Monday night that the prospect of property taxes going up this year is almost a given.

“For the first time ever, I am truly nervous about next year’s budget,” Hawley said.

He detailed the effects that Gov. Paul LePage’s proposed budget would have on town spending.

“If passed as is, it would be pretty detrimental,” Hawley said.

He estimated that the town faces a $300,000 revenue loss, which combined with higher municipal expenses and a relatively low fund balance, could deliver a “not-so perfect storm.”

All of this assumes no increase in the cost to support the schools, Hawley noted.

He estimated that if the council took no special action, and there were flat budgets for the town and the schools, property taxes would increase almost $2 per $1,000 of assessed property value.

The increase to the tax bill on a property valued at $100,000 would be a little over $300 a year, or about $25 a month, he said.

Hawley listed a number of steps the council could consider to counter this, including cuts in staffing that could save about $240,000.

While Hawley noted that position cuts would always be a last resort, that amount could be saved if:

* All employees reduced their work time by two hours weekly;

* All employees paid for 10 percent of their health insurance costs;

* There was no overtime;

* The hours for the town manager, the code enforcement officer and the tax clerk were reduced to three-quarters;

* Public works and police departments each cut one position;

* Operating hours for the library and the transfer station were cut by half; and

* Rescue was eliminated.

In other business, the council:

*Approved tax payment contracts which would return properties at 37 Riverside Drive and 37 North Main St., to their former owners;

* Approved amendments to the flood plain ordinance, rendering it consistent with new flood plain maps issued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency; and

* Approved Junior Brownie Troop 335’s request to raise $10,000 for playground equipment for between the major and minor league ball fields behind the Municipal Office complex.

The council thanked the Brownies for such an ambitious community service project.


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