Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Getting back on the horse….


We’ve heard a rumbling around town lately that Other Side has become a one track pony.  So in an effort to get back on trick, we’re going to switch to a different line for this post.

Please bear with us in our attempt to get back on one of our favorite steeds.  And one that Ben Dover favors as well.   Here’s the setup:


We doubt we’ll be there, because after two trips to Augusta already this week, and a lovely evening in town council chambers on Monday eve, we need to have our tanks pumped before we can take on any more ‘effluent.’  Not to mention that we have Weber and Sons stopping by tomorrow to scoop three years of accumulated honey from our household “hive.”

But we do want to provide you with some background info you might find useful.

First, here’s a table of town budget/property tax data we’ve been collecting for some years now.


Plus some related data that shows figures that may be relatively obscure to you, like fund balances, and our ‘what if’ numbers if budget growth had been limited to an increase of 2.5% or 3% a year, as shown in this cut:


At one level, the most interesting data in the clip just above is the property tax rate, or ‘mil rate’ as it’s known.

Our figures could be off a skosh here and there, because we usually track them by budgets as they are approved by the town council before the new fiscal year begins.  Inevitably, ‘actuals’ vary a bit from those baselines, but any variances should be negligible for our purposes here.  As you can see from the above, if total expenditures had been limited to 3% annual growth since the late ‘80’s, total town spending right now would be in the $40 million range, instead of $58 million.

Most folks, at least when it comes to their personal finances, would think a 3% spending increase per year is manageable, unless you have an adjustable rate income, where you can tell your employer how much he’ll have to pay you in the coming fiscal year.  Like the town tells you how much you’ll have to increase your property taxes in the coming fiscal year, to match whatever spending increase they feel like indulging in.

Then there’s this view of things, where we’ve recorded school system enrolment, total expenditures, and expenditures per student since the end of the last century:


You shouldn’t have to look too hard to see how much spending has increased in total, how much enrolment has declined (DOE figures are those reported to the state), and how much dollars per student has increased.

As one of our graphics said recently, “there must be a pony in here somewhere.”  We hope you ‘get’ that, but if you don’t, just keep staring at the numbers, and maybe it will suddenly become clear.

Now the really good news; the projections for the coming year, from the Town Manager’s office.  Including a projected increase in the mil rate to $28.83.  On average, that will mean a roughly 5% increase in your property taxes the next time you get your bill.  For us, that’s  in the range of $400 a year; we doubt yours will be that high.  Never mind; the way we overwhelm the town and school department with demands for service, we surely deserve to pay that much more, if not even more.

Stay tuned.  We told you of the proposed ‘revaluation’ gambit.  The closer the mil rate gets to $30, the more embarrassed and worried our leaders will become, and the more they’ll be driven to increase our assessments so they can decrease the mil rate.  As we explained before, increase your assessment by roughly 42%, decrease the mil rate by 20%, and increase your tax bill by 14%.   That’s the sort of possibility such things invoke.

Talk about one trick ponies; what’s not to like?  Sooner or later, you’ll get over the smell.  Just like we’re all supposed to get over the smell of Downeaster fumes.

You can find the proposed budget here:

A passage in the introductory verbiage is this:


There you go.  Imagine how much our local road conditions will improve with this million and a half increase in spending.  Just kidding!

Road condition?  When the need for raised crosswalks and other improvements to traffic calming are screaming out at us?

Wait…..potholes calm traffic, don’t they?  And teachers making another 3-5% more, just because, they calm traffic, don’t they?

Yeah…that’s it.  And you can take that to the bank.  When you go to make a withdrawal so you can pay your tax increase.

We have the feeling that if you pat the pony above in the right place, he’ll open up his food bin so you can put your shekels in it.

                              Image result for Hopalong cassidy

And always remember, boys and girls, to follow Blogalong Poppycock and his white horse in all their upcoming adventures!


We promise it will be way more fun than watching town government!  Honk honk!

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