WINDHAM — Windham’s proposed $45.2 million budget for 2020 includes a paving project on Route 302 and possibly doing away with the town’s silver bullet recycling centers. What it doesn’t include, the interim town manager said last week, is a spending increase as big as it seems.
The budget includes $21.2 million for Windham’s portion of the RSU 14 budget. Interim Town Manager Don Gerrish said that while the proposed $24 million municipal budget appears to have increased greatly over this year’s $18.5 million budget, much of that increase is due to funds moving to different categories in the budget.
“The municipal budget, to be fair, is up a lot this year because of those changes. But I think in the long run doing this will give you the flexibility in future budgets to be able to deal with some of your bigger expenditure items,” Gerrish said at a Town Council budget workshop.
He said there were many changes made “to deal with what I thought were some areas that you need to really concentrate on, mainly your roads budget and your equipment budget, that really couldn’t have funded what you needed this year.”
For instance, $680,000 is moving from the capital budget and lease purchase costs into the operating budget.
Of that amount, $100,000 is for purchasing new police cars, which the town does each year.
“Normal practice is if you buy something annually, it should be in your operating budget and not in your capital budget,” Gerrish said.
Another $575,000 comes from lease purchase costs. Gerrish explained that the town has been using three- to five-year leases to purchase equipment and now had $575,000 in that portion of the budget.
“Lease purchases is debt. We moved it into the operating budget as part of your ongoing costs for debt. This is a one-time shift, and it increases your budget on the operating side, but if you didn’t do it, you wouldn’t have any money – I’ll be honest with you – to buy any of your new equipment,” Gerrish said.
Another $380,000 in the operating budget comes from an increase to employee benefits.
“There were a couple of areas where the amount you budgeted last year should have been higher, and we have to make it up this year,” Gerrish said.
In addition, $535,000 will go towards operating and debt services costs for the public works building.
This is the first year of full payment for debt service for the facility, Gerrish said, and operating costs have increased as well.
The town is also adding an additional police officer and two firefighters/EMTs and increasing a clerk’s position and a library position from part- to full-time.
The Finance Committee has proposed some changes to the budget, including getting rid of silver bullet recycling centers.
Gerrish said the town will pay $35 a ton for its recycling through ecomaine and will incur an additional fee if any load exceeds 25% contamination.
“For the last three months, every single one of our silver bullets exceeded 25% contamination,” he said.
With the fee, it would cost the town $106 a ton for its recycling, so the Finance Committee recommends doing away with the silver bullet recycling centers.
Gerrish said the issue would be discussed further in the future.
The committee also recommended budgeting an additional $400,000 for a paving project on Route 302.
The state is paving from Windham to Naples, and the town is working with the state for a portion of the project.
The town’s portion is just after Anglers Road up to Windham Christian Academy. Windham would pave an additional inch as well as the shoulders, which would create a turn lane.
The cost ended up being much higher than expected, but Gerrish said he felt it was important to complete it.
In addition, the committee recommended including an additional $400,000 for local paving projects in order to start addressing issues with gravel roads across town.
Gerrish predicts the proposed budget will lead to an approximately 4.42% tax increase, from $15.18 per $1,000 of taxable assessed value to $15.85.
“We’d love to put more into reducing the property tax, but I think with the problems we’re having with public roads and some capital projects that we’re going to catch up on, I think these are the best options that we have. And it’s going to set us up for success down the road,” Finance Committee Chairman Tim Nangle said.
“I think you’re going to be really pleased going forward with some of the things that we’ve done. You’ll still have your struggles, but it will set the stage to allow you to make decisions better and deal with the issues you want,” he said.
The council will hold a public hearing on the proposed budget on May 28, when it will also vote to approve the budget and the warrant for the annual town meeting.
Residents will vote on the municipal budget at the town meeting on June 15.
Jane Vaughan can be reached at 780-9103 or at email@example.com.
Interim town manager Don Gerrish