TOPSHAM — Next year’s municipal budget could rise 5 percent over current spending, according to a draft presented to the Board of Selectmen on Feb. 7 by Town Manager Rich Roedner.

With assessments to the town from School Administrative District 75 and Sagadahoc County not yet available, the impact on Topsham taxpayers is still unknown.

The $12.6 million spending plan, up about $606,000 from the current fiscal year 2019 budget, is due to undergo changes in the coming weeks. A public hearing on the matter is set for April 11, after which the budget goes to town meeting May 15 for resident approval.

Roedner proposes an 82 percent, or $73,000, hike in the finance manager line item, due to the addition of a new full-time employee to assist the finance director in daily money management tasks. That helping hand will allow the director to focus more time on the town’s conversion to a new financial software program and “provide a remedy to the critical failure point of only having one person who can manage our books,” Roedner said in a Feb. 7 memo.

Payroll lines are flat, since contract negotiations with the town’s collective bargaining units are ongoing, leaving the impacts unknown. Roedner has set aside $180,000 in the insurance line item to cover payroll increases.

Public Works is up about $90,000 (7.3 percent), due largely to adding a staff member assigned to town-owned facilities.

“We currently lack someone dedicated to fixing stuck doors, doing minor repairs, helping with building issues that come up fairly regularly,” Roedner noted. “We rely on DPW to do most of this work, but without a dedicated person to these tasks, needs get in line with other obligations that DPW has.”

The solid waste line item is up nearly 12 percent, almost $47,000, thanks to new solid waste and recycling contracts that are impacted by changes worldwide in the market, Roedner said.

“Finding markets for (American) recyclables is becoming tougher, increasing the costs of bringing material to market,” the manager explained. “Our contract has an upper limit, which is what we budgeted for. However, our contract has no floor, so costs could drop if the recycling market rebounds.”

Roedner proposes a 16.27 percent, or more than $66,000, increase in the Parks and Recreation Department, which would raise a half-time maintenance position to full time.

An 11.58 percent (about $75,000) hike in the Topsham Free Library budget would in part increase a part-time position to full-time, including full benefits, Roedner said. Additional hours are also budgeted for several other positions.

Fire Chief Chris McLaughlin proposed two new employees as he modernizes his department: a full-time firefighter to lessen reliance on per diem people for shift coverage and adding a second medic to the third shift.

Between the two positions, the department would have 24/7 coverage with at least one medic all the time, Roedner said. The department would also be able to have two runs at night, whereas “today we have to await call response if there is a second call overnight,” he noted.

While those positions are necessary to achieve the department’s goals, “I am suggesting that the full-time position not be filled this year and that the extra medic overnight not be budgeted,” Roedner explained.

The Board of Selectmen will have the opportunity to add those to the budget, should its members see fit. Upcoming meetings, open to the public, are listed at topshammaine.com.

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