City Manager: Proposed budget delivers zero percent tax increase

City will vote on $1.6 million for Old County Road in November
By Daniel Dunkle | Apr 23, 2014
Photo by: Daniel Dunkle Mayor Larry Pritchett at the April 23 City Council meeting.

Rockland — City Manager Tom Luttrell presented a proposed 2014-2015 city budget to the City Council April 23 that he said delivers no tax increase over last year.

"This budget holds the city's portion of the mil rate at $8.89 per thousand or zero percent over fiscal year 2014," Luttrell wrote in a memo to council. "This has proven to be no easy task as we were faced with a 3.45 percent decrease in non-property tax revenue or a loss of $135,280."

The council will meet with department heads and review the budget in a series of upcoming meetings before finalizing a budget.

The proposed total city budget is about $10.5 million, down slightly from last year's $10.6 million.

The projected property tax rate in the budget booklet is $19.51, down slightly from the current rate, though that could change when the school budget is approved. Most of property tax dollars go to school funding.

The current city property tax rate was set Aug. 12 at $19.52 per $1,000 of assessed value, up from $19.42 previously.

The proposed budget reduces spending by $135,033 (7 percent).

"The most significant savings are from not filling vacant positions such as the assistant to the city manager, a reference librarian and the fire chief," the memo notes. "I am proposing to take the first six months of the fiscal year and study the position of public safety director."

A public safety director would be one individual that would oversee police, fire and EMS personnel.

The budget includes a 3 percent raise for city employees, a 20 percent increase in Maine State Retirement rate, and an estimated 10 percent increase in health insurance.

Waste water treatment rates would go up 3 percent if this budget is approved.

Proposed spending for departments includes:

Legal, $109,014, up 1.6 percent.

Library, $523,996, down 6 percent.

Fish pier, $101,601, up 12 percent.

Fire Department, $1.5 million, down 1.6 percent.

Police, $1.9 million, up 3.4 percent.

Public works, $1.5 million, up 2.4 percent.

Recreation, $371,153, up less than 1 percent.

Community Development, $133,980, up 17 percent.

In other business, the council voted 3-2 to ask voters to approve borrowing $1.6 million for repairs on Old County Road. Councilors Elizabeth Dickerson and Louise MacLellan-Ruf opposed the motion.

An engineer from Gartley & Dorsky told the council the road is in bad need of repair including reconstruction of the portions of the road underneath the pavement. The proposed project would cover from Route 17 to Limerock Street.

The road is a state-aid road and the Maine Department of Transportation has told council the road is low on its priority list. Further, DOT contends the city is responsible for maintenance of the road and the state would only be responsible for a major capital project. The state has agreed to enter a partnership with the city with the state providing $500,000 per year in funding for the project.

MacLellan-Ruf argued this is the state's responsibility. "This is a state road. At what point do we say enough is enough?"

Councilor Eric Hebert said the number one complaint he receives from constituents is about the poor condition of Old County Road. He acknowledged the road's condition is bad enough to pass the test of being a major capital project. However, he added his opinion that it is a fantasy to wait for the state to fix the road.

He also argued it is taxpayer money whether it comes from the state or the city.

"Let's not lose sight of the fact that no matter how this road gets fixed, we're all paying for it," he said.

The council had planned to bring this to the voters in June, but it passed an amended order to put this on the ballot in the November election.

Courier Publications News Director Daniel Dunkle can be reached at ddunkle@courierpublicationsllc.com or 594-4401 ext. 122.

Comments (4)
Posted by: George Holmes | Apr 25, 2014 04:49

Congratulation on the announcement about the budget, although I will be nervous... when ever governmental agencies assure me of anything. Lets see how things actually play out and what will be asked of us next year to cover this upcoming year's actual expenditures.

Mr. Hebert... if it is a State road the cost is dispersed over the entire population not just the area population - the financial impact on EACH individual is by far less if they justifiably absorb the project.

 



Posted by: Frank Brown | Apr 24, 2014 10:44

Congratulations on the zero tax increase. Rockland has a property tax rate of $19.51 when the county weighted average is $13.00 and the state is $14.00.



Posted by: Francis Mazzeo, Jr. | Apr 24, 2014 10:24

I'll be voting against this as well. If we don't have the ability to protect this road by posting weight limits then I don't want my tax dollar going there. Unless you live on the OCR then you can find a smoother route. People need to slow down, leave a few minutes earlier and enjoy driving instead of hurrying everywhere.



Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Apr 24, 2014 10:07

Congratulations to our city leadership on the zero tax increase. Although it may not have all been my choices someone needed to make the decisions and most of us would not want to sit in their seat. Will vote against paying for Old County Road; and that will be my decision. At least we do have the opportunity to vote.



If you wish to comment, please login.

Staff Profile

Dan Dunkle
Editor
207 594-4401 ext. 122
Email Me

Daniel Dunkle is editor of The Courier-Gazette and news director for Courier Publications. He lives in Rockland with his wife, Christine, who also works for Courier Publications, and two children.

Dunkle has previously served as editor of The Republican Journal in Belfast. He has worked as a reporter and photographer in the Midcoast for 15 years.

 

Recent Stories by Dan Dunkle