Friday, April 2, 2021

Town of Raymond's budget process in full swing

Proposal aims to keep taxes low, essential services intact

Members of Raymond's Budget-Finance Committee will meet
with members of the Raymond Board of Selectmen and the
town manager during a meeting to review and examine the
town's preliminary budget proposal on April 6. Raymond Town 
Manager Don Willard has submitted an initial budget of 
$17,299,207 for 2021-2022. PHOTO BY ED PIERCE   
By Ed Pierce

As the Town of Raymond’s budgetary process for Fiscal Year 2021-2022 continues to unfold, the focus remains squarely on holding spending in check while maintaining essential services for town residents.

Starting in March, the Raymond Board of Selectmen began preliminary discussions regarding the budget and will meet again with the Town Manager, Town Finance Director and members of the Raymond Budget-Finance Committee on April 6 to continue to come up with a proposal to offer to voters during the annual town meeting in June. Because of the pandemic, it is uncertain if voters will gather for the town meeting, but if not, like in 2020, voters could be asked to approve the budget by referendum.          

According to Raymond Town Manager Don Willard, certain goals and priorities guided town staff in formulating a budget proposal for the coming year.

“We want to maintain or lower the tax rate and continue the commitment to improve and maintain town roads,” Willard said. “We are aware that the town’s undesignated fund balance can be used within existing policy to keep taxes low and that all budget areas are on the table for discussion and review. Lastly, we are aiming for a core-service driven budget.”

Willard said Raymond’s municipal budgets have remained flat for the past few years and he expects that to be the case once more when a final proposal is agreed upon by the Raymond Select Board.

In a letter in February to the Raymond Board of Selectmen and the Raymond Budget-Finance Committee, Willard said a working draft shows only a 2.46 budget increase for 2021-2022 and that figure did not include contributions from the undesignated surplus fund balance.

“New property valuation growth continues to be strong,” Willard wrote in the letter. “The budget does factor an estimated $7.5 million increase in new taxable property valuation that will reduce the impact of any increased spending.”

Willard said several other factors that are beyond the control of the town when formulating the new town budget are the Cumberland County’s budget and the school’s budget. RSU 14 is expected to submit its 2021-2022 budget proposal later this spring. 

In opening the 2021-2022 budget discussion, the Raymond Board of Selectmen and Town Budget-Finance Committee are reviewing Willard’s initial proposal of $17,299,207.  Last year’s budget for Raymond was $18,148,036.

No major equipment purchases such as fire trucks are planned by the town in the coming year, Willard said.

The initial budget proposal under study includes $76,393 for Tassel Top Park, up from $50,195 from last year. Revenues for Tassel Top Park actually rose by 26 percent in the past year and some of the requested increase in funding could be used to hire a split position with the town’s public works department for a parks maintenance foreman.

The new budget proposal also includes additional funding for town election workers as the minimum wage rises; $3,500 to repair broken and leaning old headstones in the Raymond Village Cemetery, and $3,000 requested by the town clerk’s office to conserve and de-acidify some of the oldest town records written on parchment paper more than 250 years ago.

Selectmen and Budget-Finance Committee members could approve a budget proposal to continue to invest in fiber networking infrastructure to eliminate monthly costs of ISP connections for the Town of Raymond’s network and $7,500 to manage town videography services.

The Raymond Public Works Department is requesting $2,000 for road striping service and $50,000 for road paving while Raymond Fire-Rescue is requesting funding for a staffing study to help resolve manpower issues and attract new qualified firefighters and EMTs to the town.

The proposed budget also includes a contribution for the Lakes Region Explorer public transportation system and funding for regional animal control services along with Casco and Naples.

Town debt service from existing municipal bonds under the initial proposed budget remains unchanged from the 2020-2021 budget at $317,800. <       

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