Newcastle voters will consider all town expenses for fiscal year 2020-2021 in the annual town meeting by referendum Tuesday, July 14.
The polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the community room of the fire station, to coincide with the state primary. However, the selectmen urge residents to use absentee ballots if possible because of the coronavirus emergency.
The warrant has 12 articles. Town Manager Jon Duke said he made the warrant as concise as possible to get voters in and out of the polling station as quickly as possible.
Expenses total $5,915,188.25, an increase of $290,211.93 or 5.16% from fiscal year 2019-2020.
Education expenses total $3,251,374.16, an increase of $60,809.44 or 1.91%. The county tax is $417,337.09, an increase of $30,215.09 or 7.81%.
Article 3 asks voters to approve a secondary education budget of $1,477,738.50, an increase of $63,330.78 or 4.48%.
Voters will cast a validation vote on a separate ballot for the budget for the Great Salt Bay Consolidated School District, which totals $5,707,935.01, down $392,032.07 or 6.43% from the previous year.
Newcastle’s share of the GSB budget is $1,773,635.66, essentially the same as last year.
A budget worksheet included in this year’s town report explains that an overall increase in town expenses will be offset by funds from the town’s unassigned fund balance and an increase in property valuation to hold the mil rate at $17.90 per $1,000 of valuation for the fifth year in a row.
At this mil rate, the owner of a property assessed at $200,000 would owe $3,580 in taxes.
Of an unassigned fund balance in excess of $1.6 million, the selectmen are asking to use just over one-eighth that amount to invest in infrastructure, like roads and buildings, the report states.
Article 5 asks voters to approve the municipal budget of $2,240,286.12, an increase of $192,996.52 or 9.43%.
The public works section of the budget increased to $648,945, up $67,859 or 11.68%.
These funds include road maintenance work and work that is part of Road Commissioner Seth Hagar’s 10-year plan to rebuild Newcastle roads.
The section of the budget that funds various reserve accounts is $597,104, up $42,354 or 7.63%.
Funds for the roads capital project reserve account, which saves money for projects related to the 10-year roads plan, totals $546,354, up $16,354 or 3.09%.
There is also $25,000 set aside for a municipal building reserve, for repairs and maintenance to town buildings, up from $0 last year.
The administration and operations section of the budget increased to $525,578, up $21,483.96 or 4.26%.
This includes funds for a new town website, software to manage meeting agendas and minutes, a change in salary from a town administrator to a town manager, a new contract with the town’s assessors’ agent, and additional funding for public buildings and cemeteries.
Public safety totals $233,581.12, up $20,087.95 or 9.41%. This category includes an increase in the annual request from the Central Lincoln County Ambulance Service, purchasing additional personal protective equipment for the fire department, and the first year of a loan for the conversion of streetlights to more efficient LEDs.
The town has entered into an agreement with RealTerm Energy to audit and potentially replace the town’s streetlights.
Article 6 combines 10 questions put to voters every year to give the board of selectmen various authorities to accept gifts and donations, execute quitclaim deeds and sell real estate, enter into multiple-year contracts on behalf of the town, and perform other duties. The article also includes language authorizing the selectmen to use surplus funds to reduce the tax burden.
Article 4 asks voters to authorize the selectmen to negotiate an interlocal agreement with the founding member towns of Central Lincoln County Ambulance Service Inc.
CLC Ambulance does not have such an agreement on file between its six founding towns: Bremen, Bristol, Damariscotta, Newcastle, Nobleboro, and South Bristol. The towns intend to negotiate an interlocal agreement in the coming year.
Article 2 asks voters to elect two selectmen and one school committee member. Tor Glendinning, Rob Nelson, and Roger Wilcox are the three candidates for selectman. For more on the candidates for selectman, see “Three run for two seats on Newcastle Board of Selectmen” in this edition. The lone candidate for the school committee is newcomer Jesse Butler.
Other municipal budget categories break down as follows: public services, $174,930, up $8,147.61 or 4.89%; and debt service, $66,338, up $39,254 or 144.93%.
The increase in debt service stems from the first year of interest payments on the $2 million bond for the Academy Hill Road reconstruction project and from payments on a fire truck bond.