City Manager: Proposed budget delivers zero percent tax increaseCity will vote on $1.6 million for Old County Road in November
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or 594-4401 ext. 122.
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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 since 1998.