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City manager unveils municipal spending plan down 1.5 percent

Rockland council braces for higher school budget

By Stephen Betts | Apr 23, 2019
Photo by: Stephen Betts Rockland City Manager Tom Luttrell presented the proposed 2019-2020 municipal budget Monday night, April 22, to the City Council.
Rockland —
Rockland City Manager Tom Luttrell unveiled Monday night, April 22, a proposed 2019-2020 budget that reduces spending by 1.5 percent.
But the amount of property taxes needed to support that lower spending will rise because of losses in other revenues.

Councilors expressed frustration that, despite the effort to rein in costs by city government, property taxes are likely to rise more than 5 percent, largely because of expected higher spending by the school district.

The city manager's proposed 2019-2020 municipal budget totals about $13.4 million, a decrease of about 1.5 percent ($218,000).

Increases in the budget included money for raises, higher health insurance costs, and higher property and liability insurances.

The largest account in the budget is public services, which is proposed at $2.8 million, down 11 percent. The decrease is due to a large trash hauler no longer using the transfer station, but instead taking the trash to Ecomaine. That decrease in expense is offset by a loss of revenues from the hauler.

The police department budget is proposed at more than $2.1 million, an increase of 1.5 percent.

The fire department budget is proposed at about $2.1 million, an increase of 3.4 percent.

The general government budget is proposed at more than $2.5 million, an increase of 1.8 percent.

The debt service budget is unchanged at $1.25 million.

The library budget is proposed to rise 1.2 percent to $608,000.

The harbor budget is proposed at $441,000, down 1 percent. Luttrell said revenues were down $11,000 in the harbor department because of fewer scheduled visits by large cruise ships for the upcoming summer.

The public utilities budget is projected to rise nearly 10 percent to $721,000. The city manager said this was because of a projected rate increase from the water company.

After the formal meeting concluded Monday evening, councilors talked about the projected increase in the Regional School Unit 13 budget. Luttrell said he expects the school budget to increase 8 percent.

The city has projected that with the increase in the school and county budgets, as well as the municipal budget, a home assessed at $185,000 will see its taxes increase $222, reaching $4,492. The school expenses will account for 54 percent of the taxes, 41 percent goes for municipal spending and 5 percent to Knox County.

Councilor Ed Glaser said this was another case of taxes going up despite the efforts of the city.

Councilor Ben Dorr said the city will take the majority of criticism for the expected increase in taxes.

RSU 13 has yet to submit an overall budget, but it has been holding meetings on various parts of its budget.

School officials have been lobbying the state to reform the school funding formula so that it places more weight on median income in the communities, rather than property values. Coastal districts tend to receive far less state aid because of higher property values.

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Comments (6)
Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Apr 24, 2019 08:11

Doug is correct.  If the city's leaders feel helpless about controling the costs of the school and the county where are they.  Last November I was the only member of the public that showed up at the Public Hearing for the Knox County budget. Doug and I and a small handful of other Rockland citizens attended  school budget hearings to no avail as we were strongly outvoted by RSU #13 supporters.  We have the power to influence these budgets.  Our leaders just need to step up to the plate.

Posted by: Doug Curtis Jr. | Apr 23, 2019 13:49

I am hearing a lot of complaints about the RSU 13 budget but I have yet to see one person from the public attend one budget workshop or regularly scheduled school board meeting this year. If you have something to say now is the time. The next meeting is scheduled for this Thursday at 6 PM I believe at the old South School. I hope to see you all there to include the city council. I remind you all the voters of every town approved the construction plans and now it's time to pay for it.

Posted by: Ian Emmott | Apr 23, 2019 11:34

Municipal budget here is down for the second year, and its expected to rise over 8% on the RSU end and yet you two are still complaining about the City budget. Richard... we absolutely do control the school and county budget. The problem is that everyone complains all the time but very few show up to vote on the proposed school budgets before they are put to the ballot.

Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Apr 23, 2019 11:15

We have an excellent city council yet it seems like they can wring their hands but that doesn't solve the problem. We cannot do anything about the school or the county budget but we can the city budget. How much longer does Main Street remain the priority while the rest of us pay the price? Enough smoke and mirrors as we seemingly go from one crisis to another.  The "Trump", new city garage, roads, sewer and on and on.   Way too many needs to continue business as usual. Champagne appetite with a beer income; or water for those of us who are retired. Psss Notice that added charge to your sewer bill for billing??

Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Apr 23, 2019 09:28

All I am hearing from the council is a lot of excuses why nothing happened.  Inaction due mostly to the council spending its time on controling the threat of  Marijuana and intown zoning issues while spending little time on trying to influence areas that could make a difference.  How often did any councilor attend a school board meeting or Knox County budget hearing  ?  I have urged councilors to be proactive and work with the City Manager throughout the year to help curb costs and find ways to increase revenues.  Instead they choose to wait for a new budget then complain about the price.  Harbor revenues down $11,000 due to fewer cruise ships. Surprise, Surprise, didn't we tell them not to come ?

Posted by: Ian Emmott | Apr 23, 2019 07:55

To me it seems RSU-13 was a bad deal all around for us in Rockland. It would be interesting to compare how many school age children live in Rockland now to when we had our own school system. I went to one of those budget meetings last June, and a large increase was approved to go to the ballot with very little question or pushback from the public. I want to say there were maybe 40-50 citizens from the RSU combined. Of the whole RSU-13, that is an extremely small fraction of stakeholders approving these budgets. Thanks to City Council and the Town Manager for all your efforts trying to keep taxes down.

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