Mayor: Town needs full 3.8 percent levy

Mayor: Town needs full 3.8 percent levy

This story was updated Tuesday morning to note that Mayor Murray says it's medical claims by town employees, not school employees, that's forcing the town to increase the tax levy to 3.8 percent. Council debate and a vote is expected Wednesday.

CUMBERLAND – School advocates who for two weeks filled McCourt’s auditorium and poured out their hearts about budget cutbacks are discovering this week that an extra 1 percent levy increase this April, that many hoped would offset school expenses next year, won’t be available.

A new levy worksheet posted in advance of Wednesday’s meeting is calling for a 3.8 percent levy increase, not the 3 percent increase promised last June when the budget was adopted.

That seems to be taking the air out a plan by at least some councilors to boost the levy to 4 percent to create extra cash that would chip away at school spending needs for next year.

The new worksheet has also increased the estimated collection rate for the first quarter of the year from 43.5 percent to 44.3 percent, a change that can mathematically reduce the required tax levy.

The new levy calculations come after Finance Director Jason Parmelee told residents last week that Cumberland must remain at 3 percent or create a situation for next year that requires a 6 percent increase – beyond the 4 percent cap allowed by state law.

Moreover, until the release of the new levy calculation, Mayor Bill Murray, too, had been calling on the council to honor the 3 percent ceiling.

Murray was pushing for a final vote last week – using the 3 percent increase - until former Council President Jeff Mutter pointed out errors in the levy calculation. The levy vote was put off and Parmelee was directed to check his math.

On Tuesday, Murray was referring questions to Parmelee who wasn't immediately available. Murray did say that the extra money is needed to cover unexpected health care claims for town employees and he confirmed, "In this year, going to the 3.8 (percent) we will not have excess money."

The Town Council’s finance subcommittee is expected to review the newly proposed levy at on Wednesday, April 19 at its 6 p.m. meeting at McCourt Middle School. The whole council will take up the issue at 7:30 p.m., also at McCourt.