Mutter: Budget exceeded state levy

Mutter: Budget exceeded state levy

CUMBERLAND – The town budget approved last year exceeds the state’s 4 percent limit on tax levy increases, says Mayor Jeff Mutter, coming in at 4.72 percent.

Mutter said he made the surprising discovery in this his third month in office. He said the budget proposed by former Mayor Bill Murray was within the 4 percent state cap on the levy and under a maximum tax rate cap for the town, with a $2.1 million increase in taxes, or 3.42 percent more.

But when the Town Council bumped up the budget, taking the levy to $2.9 million, the town went to a 4.72 percent increase, or from being $359,000 under the state’s 4 percent cap to $439,000 over it, he said.

“We are working with the council to identify a strategy to lower the levy and be compliant with town ordinances and state law,” said Mutter.

Making this worse, he said, the town violated the levy cap even as its leaders budgeted $1.7 million in spending from surplus funds.

“Talk about a tough spot,” he said, adding that the town must work to get in compliance with the cap.

Because Cumberland has an unsynchronized budget, meaning unlike many other communities the town passes its tax rates at the end of the year instead of the beginning, there is still time to find savings and bring the levy under the cap, said Mutter, but it’s only about a one-month window. He said there will probably need to be a combination of cuts and new revenue sources to bring the levy, or total amount collected in taxes, down by about $400,000, and even that amount will get the town “barely legal” at about 3.96 percent of the state levy cap, with the collection rate “pretty much as high as we can project it.”

Mutter said he’s not sure why the illegal budget totals went through or why it wasn’t presented “front and center” as leaders considered the spending plan.

Council President Peter Bradley said he’s discussed Mutter’s revelation with some other council members and he’d like answers on why these numbers weren’t presented clearly. The sheets the council was looking at “showed us under,” he said.

“We’re working with the information we’re given,” he said.

Bradley said he’s confident the town can address the situation through a series of moves.

Comments

The level of incompetence in this town never ceases to amaze me. Good luck to Mayor Mutter. You're going to need it.