Originally published in The Weekly Packet, April 20, 2017
Surry budgets down but less reserve drives up taxation
by Anne Berleant
The board of selectmen and school committee will propose 2017-18 budgets slightly down from this year to voters at town meeting on April 24, but decreased municipal reserves equals a 1.7 percent rise in taxation.
About $34,000 less will be taken from reserve accounts, increasing the mill rate from .00855 to .00872 and leaving about $819,000 as surplus, Chairman of Selectmen Bill Matlock said at an April 5 Surry Community Improvement Association meeting.
“Undesignated surplus should be 14 percent of the budget,” Matlock said. “We were overtaxing.”
Selectmen have steadily decreased reserve accounts over the past three years “and now they’re where they should be,” Matlock said.
The total municipal budget of $1,071,075 is down $45,000, due mainly to a three-year Newbury Neck Road repaving project winding down this fall, lowering the public works expenditure by $60,375.
The only sizable increase is in administration, $24,315. A “major driver” of the increase is a proposed new town sign, which would be programmable from the town office, Matlock said, while a $21,460 line item in parks, library and recreation for renovations to the Old Village School House will be fulfilled by private donations already received. As town property, payments for work on the old school house must go through the town account.
Also on the municipal warrant is article 64, renewing alewife fishing rights with the Maine Department of Marine Resources, with selectmen controlling the fishery, including negotiating a contract for up to three years for taking alewives as a means of town income.
Drop in special education costs behind flat school budget
A proposed 2017-18 school budget of $2.54 million, shows two major decreases, $75,921 in special education and $21,906 in transportation costs for private and out-of-district student travel costs. However, a $42,854 increase in regular instruction, $21,420 in operation and maintenance, and $4,000-$6,000 increases in the superintendent’s office, administration, other instruction and food services bring the budget in down 0.37 percent or $9,507.
The increase in regular instruction, which covers pre-K through 12th grade students, is driven by elementary school instruction, up $115,325, but a drop in secondary tuition helps offset the jump. Teacher and staff health insurance is also up by $36,388, and the school board proposed adding a fourth day of pre-K, a third day of art instruction, and an 80 percent ed. tech. position.
Proposed new roofing has driven the operation and maintenance budget up $11,000. Add on HVAC maintenance costs of $3,500, custodian health insurance of $4,500 and small increases in a handful of areas, and the $21,420 increase is accounted for.
Not including transportation costs, Surry spends approximately $13,000 per student, about $1,000 above the state average but lower than most other area schools. Overall, education accounts for over two-thirds of the town budget.
“For every dollar we spend in Surry, 70 cents is on the school,” Matlock said, noting that carryforward balance took “a significant hit” last year, with $60,000 available to be used as 2017-18 revenue compared to $100,000 for the current year. A projected increase in state subsidy of $35,509—from $63,873 to $99,382— will help offset that.
Elections: Friday, April 21, 8 a.m.-8 p.m., town office
Business meeting: Monday, April 24, 7 p.m., school
Municipal budget: $1,071,075 Decrease: $45,608 or 4 percent
School budget: $2,540,216 Decrease: $9,507 or 0.37 percent
Total Tax burden: $2,717,4461
Increase: $64,925 or 2.45 percent