News Feature

Originally published in The Weekly Packet, April 18, 2019
Surry proposes $3.9 million in spending

by Anne Berleant

Town Meeting voters looking for a preview of the 2019-20 school and municipal budgets walked out of an April 11 public meeting knowing that if the warrant is approved as presented, the mill rate will rise 15 cents, to $9 per $1,000 of a property’s assessed value.

The proposed 2019-20 combined school and municipal budgets comes in at $3,873,765, a $168,000 or 4.54 percent increase. The hit on property taxes is mitigated by the use of revenue from excise taxes, and reserve and surplus funds, for a tax burden increase of $48,000 or 1.25 percent.

Chairman of Selectmen Bill Matlock advised those at the meeting, hosted by the Surry Community Improvement Association, that the town’s ability to tap into reserves and surplus is decreasing because of heavier use of those funds in past years.

Still, the mill rate is the fourth lowest in the county, Matlock said, as he moved through a slide presentation that gave some context and explanation to the numbers.

The school budget, as proposed, is up $92,017 or 3.48 percent from 2018-19, for a total $2,734,073. Revenue includes an estimated state allocation of $100,000, $175,000 from the balance forward account and about $50,000 revenue and other state reimbursement.

Superintendent Mark Hurvitt explained that six or seven more high school students accounts for $63,000 of the increase. Surry pays $11,800 tuition per student plus an additional 6 percent, the insured value factor for students attending George Stevens Academy or other independent schools. Students chose GSA over Ellsworth High School by about a two-to-one margin this year.

“It’s just part of the landscape in the way things work with school choice,” Hurvitt said.

Transportation costs are down about $10,000, after the school brought student busing in-house instead of contracting it out. Special education costs, for the 26.4 percent of students who require services, are down nearly $12,000.

Hurvitt also outlined a $45,000 request for improvements to the elementary school parking lot, built in 1986, to add a second exit, and a half-day addition for the school nurse, now scheduled one day per week.

“We’re not a school of 81 kids anymore,” Hurvitt said. Pre-K through eighth grade enrollment stands at 128 students.

The $1,189,067 municipal budget will use $423,572 from property tax, $125,000 from surplus and about $450,000 from excise taxes, with the remainder coming from reserve accounts. The increase is about $77,000, mostly in public works, county tax, administration, and loan payments for the completed fire station expansion.

Town meeting is Monday, April 22, 7 p.m., in the school gym. The 2018 town report and 2019 warrant is available at the town office.