News Feature

Blue Hill
Originally published in The Weekly Packet, March 28, 2019
Blue Hill to ask voters for $9.4 million and town administrator

by Anne Berleant

Voters will elect a new selectman, decide on adding a town administrator, and fund education and municipal business at town meeting. Elections and referendum voting will be Friday, April 5, 10 a.m.-8 p.m., at town hall, with the business meeting starting at 9 a.m. on Saturday, April 6, in the Blue Hill Consolidated School gym.

The school budget, as proposed, comes in at a shade under $6.1 million, up $169,369 or 2.87 percent, while the municipal budget is approximately $2.9 million, up $50,000 or 1.75 percent, for a total $9 million.

Upgrades, repairs, and maintenance

Of the $2.9 million requested in municipal funding, $1.45 million would be raised from property taxes, with the rest coming from reserve accounts, excise taxes, and fees.

Two additional requests, from Undesignated Funds (surplus), are $350,000 to cover increased costs for the ongoing Blue Hill Consolidated School renovation, and $41,000 to match an $82,000 Connect-ME Authority grant the town is applying for to extend broadband coverage on Pleasant Street. Spectrum would pay an amount equal to the town’s share.

While most municipal funding requests are the same or close to 2018 requests, several are new:

Article 34 requests $7,775 from the Marine Reserve Account to replace floats at the South Blue Hill Wharf.

Article 37 requests $32,000 from Undesignated Funds and $6,800 from the Playground Reserve Account to improve the Town Park Playground.

Articles 38-40 request $64,000 for the recreation program, maintenance of public fields and lawns, and public gardens and plantings, with all but $5,000 raised through taxation. Combined in one article in 2018, the requests reflect a $21,000 overall increase from 2018 but a $29,000 increase in funding through taxation.

Article 58 requests $15,000 from Undesignated Funds for repairs to the “Boat House” on the town wharf.

Article 61 requests $100,000 from Auto Excise and Revenue Sharing for improvements to Parker Point Road.

Article 62 requests $6,000 from the Fire Dam Reserve Account to clean and remove sediment from the Mill Stream Fire Dam.

Article 64 requests $7,500 from Undesignated Funds for an engineer’s assessment of Town Hall.

The proposed Town Administrator referendum, if approved, would add up to $60,000 to the municipal budget.

“It’s no secret that the world has become a much more complicated place, including our small part of it,” Selectman Ellen Best wrote in a statement to The Weekly Packet, adding that “an administrator will be able to keep track of the administrative details of the town, providing an effective point of contact for townspeople … [and] keep up with both the requirements imposed on towns and the many opportunities available to towns.”

Throughout the budget process, the budget committee worked with selectmen on the 2019 warrant, and committee members said the warrant, “for the most part, reflects a joint consensus.” The committee prepared a report on issues it feels the town should focus on at town meeting, with copies available at town hall, townofbluehillmaine.org and town meeting. The 2018 town report and 2019 warrant are available at town hall.

School budget: increased revenue, expenditures

The $6.1 million, 2019-20 school budget, as proposed, shows a 2.87 percent or $169,369 increase, with the bulk of the rise from high school tuition costs, up $122,733. For a projected 150 students, the total cost is $1,862,841, reflecting tuition costs to area schools of $11,800 per student, plus a 6 percent insured value factor added to GSA students. Under Maine statute, private schools with public tuition students enrolled may charge a 6 percent insured value factor to cover depreciation of its buildings.

Elementary instruction is up $52,317, for a total $1,881,001 for an estimated 258 students. The increase reflects a contracted 2.2 percent increase in teacher salaries and projected health insurance increases. The increases are offset by a $51,399 decrease in special education costs and $75,000 more in state funding. Revenue from the state is projected at $275,000. Like last year, $175,000 will be used from the balance forward account.

All other cost centers, such as operations and maintenance, transportation, and administration, show modest increases. An initial $40,000 request to upgrade playground equipment was cut by the seventh and final draft.

“There’s too many fires to fight,” Superintendent Mark Hurvitt said to selectmen last month as he presented the school board-approved budget.