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Formal public hearing, vote set for Monday evening

Rockland budget up for final vote

By Stephen Betts | Jun 21, 2020
Photo by: Stephen Betts The proposed 2020-2021 municipal budget will be up for a final vote by the Rockland City Council June 22. City Manager Tom Luttrell is pictured here, presenting the original proposal to the Council March 2.

Rockland — The Rockland City Council will hold a formal public hearing and then a final vote Monday evening on a proposed 2020-2021 budget.

The proposed $13.7 million municipal budget would reduce an average homeowner's property taxes by $18. The package gained unanimous preliminary approval at a May 27 meeting of the Rockland City Council.

The $13,713,282 budget represents less than a 1% increase ($84,355) from the approved 2019-2020 budget.

The meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. via www.zoom.com. The meeting can also be viewed on Spectrum government access channel 1303. Public comment will be accepted via email to City Manager Tom Luttrell at tluttrell@rocklandmaine.gov.

If approved as it currently stands, the taxes on a home assessed at $185,000 would drop by $18, not counting school and county changes.

The proposed municipal budget is down nearly $400,000 from the original proposed 2020-2021 budget that was released March 2. The city administration returned with a $300,000 slimmer budget earlier this month and city councilors cut expenses by another approximately $70,000 during its reviews over the past few weeks.

The original budget was submitted two weeks before numerous business closed as a result of restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19.

The originally proposed budget included money for a full-time planner and a lieutenant for the emergency medical services department. Money for both of those positions were cut in the wake of the new economic landscape resulting from the virus outbreak.

The largest single department budget is public services at $3,080,000, up 7% from the 2019-2020 budget. Nearly all of that increase is the $350,000 budgeted for road paving. This budget also includes the solid waste facility.

No increase in the cost of a dump sticker is budgeted.

The police department budget is proposed at $2,177,000, an increase of 1.6% from the 2019-2020 budget.

The revised fire department budget is proposed at $2,174,000, up 1.7% from the current year budget.

The debt service budget is proposed at $1,366,690, an increase of 13.9% ($166,690) from 2019-2020. The debt service budget was not revised from the originally proposed budget because this covers the repayment of previously approved borrowing.

The largest single bond was approved in November 2017 for road paving, library repairs and broadband internet expansion. That amounts to $272,387 for this year's payment and is included in the debt budget.

The library budget is proposed at $604,000, down nearly 1%.

The proposed wastewater department budget is slightly more than $4 million, which will result in no change in the sewer rates.

He said the average household pays about $200 per year for wastewater. He said he was not sure how the outbreak virus with people staying home would affect water usage, on which sewer bills are based.

DuPont is the largest user by far of the wastewater system, using up about 60% of the capacity of the plant.

Councilors also agreed to keep donations to outside social service agencies at the same level as 2019-2020. That amount totals $55,500 and includes $30,000 from Rockland District Nursing Association; $10,000 for the Area Interfaith Organization food pantry; $7,500 for the Knox Clinic; $7,500 for the St. Bernard's soup kitchen; and $500 for Spectrum Generations. There is also another $2,500 budgeted for Coast Guard City functions.

Rockland Main Street Inc. will receive $30,000 from the downtown tax increment financing district account, the same as it has received for the past several years.

The Council also approved a package of capital equipment lease/purchase agreements in the budget, including replacing the roof at city hall; paving the parking lot at city hall; devices for the emergency medical services department to perform chest compressions for CPR; a police vehicle; and a public services truck.

The city also asked employees to forego their 2% raises budgeted for next year, but union representatives said they would not agree to the request. The budget includes the money for the raises that total about $155,000.

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