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Gorham’s spending plans trend upward

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Posted: Thursday, April 5, 2012 10:04 am

GORHAM - Gorham’s proposed municipal budget would rise by a slim margin, but no jobs would be lost and the level of services would stay intact.

Town Manager David Cole handed his proposed budget to the Town Council Tuesday. It calls for $12,133,463 in spending, up $164,609, representing a 1.38 percent increase from this year’s $11,968,854.

“The past few years have been a difficult economic period for businesses and individuals. The town of Gorham, like everyone else, has had to cut back on staffing and services in recent years,” Cole wrote in his budget transmittal letter. “Although still lean, this proposed budget does not propose any further reductions in staffing or services.”

The spending plan will face scrutiny from town councilors at budget workshops at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 5, and Tuesday, April 10, in the Gorham Municipal Center, 75 South St.

Cole is recommending that the Recreation Department vacate the Little Falls School on Acorn Street after the 2012-2013 budget year because operating costs are higher than expected. The department now operates before- and after-school child care programs at the former school. Cole said program fees would not cover operating expenses budgeted at $38,244.

The Lakes Region Senior Center also meets in the former school.

Cole told town councilors the proposed municipal budget would add 3 cents to the present tax rate of $16.30 per $1,000 of assessed property valuation.  The property tax levied by Cumberland County is $843,230, up $49,426 or a 6.22 percent jump, and it would add an additional 4 cents to Gorham’s tax rate.

The Gorham School Department’s latest preliminary spending plan is now $32,218,330, up $1,022,660, representing a 3.28 percent jump compared to this year’s expenditures of $31,195,670.

If approved, it would add 28 cents more to the tax rate.

Under the school budget rolled out in February, one teacher position would be cut, but no one was expected to lose a job because of retirements.

The state’s general purpose aid subsidy is likely to come in at $14,580,159, an increase of $375,711, but the state hasn’t set figures yet.

“Please remember that the Department of Education has not released its final budgetary figures and the School Committee may very well be voting on a preliminary estimate of general purpose aid,” James Hager, chairman of the Gorham School Committee, told town councilors Tuesday.

The school budget would hike the local appropriation $432,304, from $13,260,760 this year to $13,693,064.

The School Committee is expected to vote on the budget at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 11.

Superintendent Ted Sharp said last week the school budget does not include all-day kindergarten in the district’s three elementary schools. The measure wasn’t in the budget, despite efforts of a group of concerned parents who distributed flyers in neighborhoods and set up a Facebook page.

The parents’ informational sheet pegged startup and personnel costs of implementing all-day kindergarten for Gorham at $382,000.

Citing different circumstances and configurations that could face the School Committee, Sharp didn’t offer any future costs of implementing the program.

Cole said the Town Council and the School Committee plan a joint budget workshop on Tuesday, May 22. In June, the Town Council will consider the school budget, which also requires approval from Gorham voters in a referendum.

Welcome to the discussion.