ROCKLAND — The Rockland City Council will hold a formal public hearing and scheduled to take a final vote Wednesday evening, June 22, to a 2022-2023 budget of nearly $16.1 million, a 13.5% 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.

Glaser was the sole vote against preliminary approval.

The changes to the budget from the one submitted 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% 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.

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

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 warned the Council 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 spoke out for the weekly stipends for police, also warning the department is already losing officers and will not be able to keep the current staff or attract new officers without the extra pay.

Last month Sgt. Scott Solorzano resigned to take a patrol deputy position with the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, and Sgt. Ken Smith resigned to take a patrol officer position with neighboring Thomason.