Split Council approves $10.5 million budget, pay-per-bag trash feesProperty taxes to rise due to personal property exemption for businesses
Rockland — A divided Rockland City Council voted 3-2 to approve the proposed $10.5 million 2014-2015 municipal budget June 30 following a short public hearing at City Hall.
Councilors Elizabeth Dickerson and Louise MacLellan-Ruf opposed the budget. Mayor Larry Pritchett and Councilors Eric Hebert and Frank Isganitis approved it.
The total gross budget for the city, including $8.8 million in intergovernmental costs (schools and county) is $19.5 million. The net budget, or that paid for through property tax will be $15.7 million.
Acting City Manager Tom Luttrell said the city property tax rate may be $20.16, up from $19.52 per $1,000 of assessed property value.
The municipal spending has not increased, according to city officials, but the taxes are being driven up by other factors including increased school district costs.
Another factor was that this year 59 businesses in the city applied for business equipment taxation exemptions, reducing the amount the city takes in from taxing businesses for personal property. In the past the city has been able to tax retail businesses on their office equipment, but that equipment is now exempt.
The city's valuation is down. Other major factors in this change was the loss of Wal-Mart, which moved to Thomaston and The Strand's change to non-profit status.
To reduce costs, the city is considering some consolidation of departments. Luttrell said the city is proposing combining the fire chief and police chief into one position as public safety director. In addition, the city has not hired a new city manager, but has had Luttrell, the finance director, fill in that position since the resignation of James Smith in December.
During the public hearing, resident Steve Carroll called for drastic cuts of millions of dollars to the budget. He recommended ordering each city department to cut half a million dollars.
Brian Harden said he resented someone telling the council to cut millions out of the budget. He said the council faced difficulties with this budget including state cuts to revenue sharing, rules against setting fees for service in the county's service center and increases in the school budget.
The council voted 3-2 to adopt a new fee schedule for the city's Solid Waste Disposal Facility effective July 1. Dickerson and MacLellan-Ruf opposed the measure.
Residential users who bring trash to the transfer station on Limerock Street will go from buying an annual dump sticker to paying $2.25 per 33-gallon bag of trash, or $1.50 per 22-gallon bag, or 75 cents for a 12-gallon bag.
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