Harpswell voters approved a $6.34 million municipal budget and $186,000 in outlays from federal funds at the town meeting by referendum on Saturday, April 23.
All 25 items on the ballot passed, with no close votes. Just 5.48% of Harpswell voters cast ballots, or 246 of 4,489.
The 2022 budget totals $6,337,339, an increase of $649,236 or 11.41% over 2021. The town does not expect an equivalent tax impact, however. Early estimates point to a 3% hike in the property tax rate, currently $6.76 per $1,000 of valuation.
The biggest factor in the budget’s growth is debt service. The town’s debt payments are more than doubling, from $310,000 to $630,000.
The figure includes the first full year of debt payments for three projects: the demolition of the pier at George J. Mitchell Field, $3.5 million; the reconstruction of Grover Lane and Gurnet Landing Road, along with the first phase of reconstruction of Basin Point Road, $650,000; and the first phase of construction at the recycling center, $450,000.
The ballot included five proposals to spend money from the American Rescue Plan Act, a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package: $90,000 to update the comprehensive plan, $46,000 for emergency services, $25,000 to improve the town website, $15,000 for an analysis of affordable housing needs and options, and $10,000 for broadband consulting.
The vote on improvements to the town website was the closest of the referendum, but still passed easily, with 77.97% of voters in favor. The tally was 184-52.
The proposals add up to $186,000 of the $519,000 the town expects to receive from the program.
Also on the ballot were amendments to three ordinances, including a change to the Shellfish Ordinance that will allow resident harvesters who move out of town to retain their licenses if they meet certain conditions. The town put forward the amendment in response to what the harbor master has referred to as a “workforce housing crisis” pressuring clammers to leave town.
A grant from the Maine Humanities Council supports the Harpswell Anchor’s reporting on town government.