ROCKLAND — The Rockland City Council gave preliminary approval Wednesday evening to a budget of nearly $16.1 million, a 13.5 percent increase.

The higher amount was reached after Councilors agreed May 25 to add $512,786 to the $15,545,000 budget initially proposed by the city manager for 2022-2023. Property owners with a home assessed at $200,000 will pay an additional $328 in taxes, which includes school and county assessments.

A formal public hearing and final vote are scheduled for Monday, June 27.

“Holy…,” Mayor Ed Glaser said when the finance director tallied up all the increases approved by the Council on Wednesday. “Someone is going to have to work an entire week just to pay for this increase.”

Glaser was the sole vote against preliminary approval.

The changes to the budget from the one submitted last month by City Manager Tom Luttrell include $200 per week stipends for police officers, and a cost-of-living increase on top of negotiated pay raises for the remainder of the city staff. The previously negotiated pay raise and cost-of-living increase amount to an 8 percent hike in pay — which is the same as the rate of annual inflation.

The Council also added a second full-time code enforcement officer into the budget. City Manager Tom Luttrell said it was virtually impossible for one person to do the job demands of code enforcement in Rockland. An effort to attract someone for a part-time position has been unsuccessful.

A part-time sustainability coordinator was also added back into the budget. The city manager had cut the position out of his proposed budget since the position has been vacant for a year.

The Council also added money for AIO Food and Energy and for the St. Bernard’s soup kitchen.

The Council did vote to cut $2,500 out of the budget for the hanging flower baskets downtown. The ones for the summer of 2022 have already been ordered. The cut will affect the ones that would have been placed downtown in 2023.

The Council also eliminated the manager’s proposal to add a full-time assistant recreation director.

Councilor Sarah Austin said the addition of the cost-of-living increase was needed to retain the staff that provide the services to community.

“I can sign my name on a bunch of certificates saying thank you (to employees for their time with the city) but where the rubber meets the road is people work so they can live, feed themselves, pay for their house, take care of their families,” Councilor Sarah Austin said.

The vote for the cost-of-living increase was 4-1 with Mayor Ed Glaser opposed.

Councilor Nate Davis hesitated before voting for the budget, saying that this was a scary number.

Councilor Austin said a lot of the increase is the city catching up with pay increases not given in past years and not adding the emergency staff needed, noting that the largest expense in the municipal budget is personnel.

Councilor Louise MacLellan-Ruf agreed, saying past Councils have “kicked the can down the road” which has resulted in this current Council needing to approve such a substantial increase.

The Council had earlier approved hiring an additional three firefighters/emergency medical technicians. This will allow the department to move staff around to create a fourth shift. Fire Chief Christopher Whytock has warned the Council that without such a change, the department will lose staff to other departments that have the different work schedule and better hourly pay.

Interim Police Chief Joel Neal had spoken out for the weekly stipends for police, also warning that the department is already losing officers and will not be able to keep the current staff or attract new officers without the extra pay.

Earlier this month Sgt. Scott Solorzano resigned to take a patrol deputy position with the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office. And this week, Sgt. Ken Smith submitted his resignation letter and has accepted a patrol officer position with neighboring Thomason.