By Diana Bowley, Of the NEWS Staff - DEXTER — Despite rising costs and declining revenues, the Town Council adopted a $2.56 million budget Thursday that reflects less spending at the municipal level.
The 2003 municipal budget has $206,000 less in municipal operating costs than last year, a feat that required cuts across the board, a further delay of long-range capital programs and the elimination of a cost-of-living adjustment for municipal employees.
When Town Manager Robert Simpson arrived on the job in 1997, he said 66 percent of the budget was for municipal operations compared to 61.7 percent today.
At a public hearing prior to the budget’s adoption Thursday, Simpson said factors that influenced the budget were increases in the minimum wage, a 15 percent increase in health insurance costs, increases in county and school funding, a 48 percent jump in water rates starting Aug. 1, facility improvements, a reduction in cemetery funding and a reduction in revenues.
“This all came together and resulted in a very dramatic situation for us,” Simpson said. Because of the closure of Dexter Shoe Co., the council made a major effort not to increase property taxes. To do that, the capital reserve accounts took “substantial hits,” he explained. Three-year capital improvement programs may now be five- to seven-year programs, he said.
In addition, the council approved the withdrawal of $150,000 from the general fund to help offset an increase in property taxes.
To help improve the town’s finances next year, the council on Thursday considered imposing permit fees and increasing other fees. A proposed amendment to the land-use ordinance to include application fees ranging from $20 to $50 was tabled for further review. The town is one of a few communities in the state that currently does not charge for land-use permit fees.
The council on Thursday did approve fees ranging from $20 to $50 for shoreland zoning ordinance applications; an increase from $2 to $5 for a garage sale permit and an increase from $5 to $15 for an annual garage sale permit; and an increase from $5 to $10 in transient seller fees.
It was recommended that the planning board revise the land-use ordinance to exempt the fees for those permits issued under shoreland zoning, to avoid a double hit.
In other business, the council agreed to offer a tax-acquired parcel on Second Street to the next highest bidder. Michelle Webb and Eric Smith, who submitted the highest bid on the property, failed to submit full payment for the property within 30 days. The town will keep Webb and Smith’s bid deposit of $1,350.
The council learned that Sen. Susan Collins is working with H.H. Brown, owner of Dexter Shoe Co., and that a meeting will be held in the near future to discuss the marketing of the buildings.
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