Positions added as more state revenue cushions increase

Rockland OKs budget

By Stephen Betts | Jun 24, 2019
Photo by: Stephen Betts The Rockland City Council approved Monday night the 2019-2020 budget. City Manager Tom Luttrell is pictured here in April, when he submitted the proposal.

Rockland — The Rockland City Council gave unanimous final approval Monday evening, June 24, to a 2019-2020 budget that adds a full-time planner and a part-time sustainability/resiliency coordinator.

The property tax impact was cushioned somewhat by passage of the state budget, which will provide Rockland with an additional $206,695 in revenue-sharing income.

"It's a good budget," Councilor Ed Glaser said immediately prior to the vote. He cited considerable work done by city staff to develop the budget.

The proposed budget of $13,574,075 is down about $30,000 from the current 2018-2019 budget, but will require about 1.7 percent more in property taxes because of reduced revenues, particularly from the solid waste facility, with the demolition debris landfill being closed.

Glaser thanked Councilor Valli Geiger for her efforts in getting the Legislature to increase state revenue-sharing for municipalities. Geiger, in turn, thanked Rockland Democratic State Rep. Pinney Beebe-Center, and state Sen. David Miramant, D-Camden.

The current projected tax rate -- with the approval of the city budget, and the already adopted Regional School Unit 13 and Knox County budgets -- is $24.82. This is up $1.74 (7.5 percent) from the 2018 rate of $23.08.

A person owning a home assessed at $150,000 would see their annual tax bill rise $261, from $3,462 to $3,723 -- not accounting for any homestead exemption.

The state increased the homestead exemption from $20,000 to $25,000, but that does not take effect until 2020.

The only debate on the budget on Monday was where to include $30,000 in the budget for the part-time sustainability/resiliency coordinator. Glaser recommended taking it out of the Community Development payroll line and moving it to the city manager account so the manager could decide whether to create a new position or use a consultant, pointing out that the council has yet to adopt the recommendations of the energy advisory committee.

The council rejected Glaser's proposal, with Mayor Lisa Westkaemper siding with Glaser.

Geiger made an impassioned plea for the position, pointing out that across the country young people are having conversations about whether to have children because of the threat of climate change, as well as economic issues. "We're looking at a collapse of the ecosystem. This is the catastrophe of our times," Geiger said.

The largest account is public services, at nearly $2.9 million. The police department budget is proposed at slightly more than $2.1 million, as is the fire department budget. The debt repayment budget is proposed at $1.2 million. The library budget is proposed at $608,000, harbor and waterfront $441,466, finance $599,356, and executive $196,722.

The council voted to eliminate fees for overdue library books, videos or DVDs. Patrons will still have to pay for the replacement of any lost items. The move was taken because there was a concern that people who could not afford the late fees would hesitate to use the library.

The City Council agreed to add $30,000 that will allow for the installation of two electric car charging stations -- one at the Custom House parking lot and the other at the Winter Street parking lot. Efficiency Maine is contributing $30,000 for the project, and there will be a charge for using the stations to repay the cost.

The council also approved the wastewater treatment plant budget, which will result in a 2 percent rate increase for sewer users.

Comments (9)
Posted by: Valerie Wass | Jul 01, 2019 20:28

Wonder if I will get a response from Councilor Valli Geiger?  I am still waiting cause I really do not know what this position is or what the responsibilities are.

 



Posted by: Dale Hayward | Jun 28, 2019 22:51

Is Vali still the spokesperson for the entire city including the city council?  Did she become Mayorette or is she self proclaimed or is she driving the bus, as always?



Posted by: Dale Hayward | Jun 28, 2019 22:49

I find it hilarious that we are now having to make up for the lost revenue we gave away building Mt. Demo with the ignorance and blessing of those involved to out of state interests at give away rates and now we have to suck up and pay through the nose to transport our new Jr. Mt. Demo (being built) when we could have go rid of our stuff right here in Rocklandia. Stupid did, stupid does, and stupid rules. There is no respect for the taxpayers in this City from the public works incompetence. I could go on but nobody listens. Do they?



Posted by: Dale Hayward | Jun 28, 2019 22:48

I find it hilarious that we are now having to make up for the lost revenue we gave away building Mt. Demo with the ignorance and blessing of those involved to out of state interests at give away rates and now we have to suck up and pay through the nose to transport our new Jr. Mt. Demo (being built) when we could have go rid of our stuff right here in Rocklandia. Stupid did, stupid does, and stupid rules. There is no respect for the taxpayers in this City from the public works incompetence. I could go on but nobody listens. Do they?



Posted by: Valerie Wass | Jun 26, 2019 13:17

Valli,

What is a sustainability/resiliency coordinator?  What will be their job?  I have never heard of this type of coordinator before.



Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Jun 25, 2019 18:15

Certainly an impassioned plea by both of our councilors to divert the blame, however I must respectfully disagree.  You took the city managers budget and added to it.  First you are hiring two additional employees and raising taxes to do so.  A "good Budget" is when you deliver more for less, not when you deliver less for more.  How long has the city know the DEP was closing the landfill ?  Years, and originally there was established a "closure fund" to take care of the expense to close the quarry.  This money was squandered by the city and now there is no money.  We all knew for a long time there would be a loss of revenue, however NO ONE planned for this expense.  As far as the school is concerned.  Ed glaser is the only councilor I saw at the meeting.  Furthermore we all know the school can't stop spending just like you so again you should plan for this.  Please don't try to divert the blame for something you had control of.  "What should you do ? " you should do your jobs and work to lower city expenses not increase them.  New street lights, new employees, yet our roads are nearly impassable.  Sorry folks I'm just not buying what you are trying to sell.



Posted by: Valli Genevieve Geiger | Jun 25, 2019 14:19

Steve, as you know well, the city does not control the RSU 13 budget. As a city we once again, kept our increase low, this year to 1.7%. We negotiated with the union for just a 1% raise, we lowered the budget from last year, but our revenue also went down as we have closed the land fill, as required by DEP. We successfully, along with other service centers, convinced the legislature to increase municipal revenue sharing from 2% to 3%. We are responsible for less than 50% of the total city budget and we increased the city budget 1.7%. RSU 13 increased their share approximately 54% of the total property taxes, by 13% and the county, 5% of the budget by far more than the city as well. What would you have us do??????

Voters in Rockland, voted against the RSU budget by a small margin, but it passed over all. Again, the city has no say over 54% of the property taxes that must be raised.  We did our part to keep any increase very low. We all need to besiege the state to change the school formula. Belfast has 100 less students than we and received $9 million for education. Rockland received $3.8 million. THAT IS THE PROBLEM.

 



Posted by: Ed Glaser | Jun 25, 2019 11:13

Steve, when I said it was a "good budget," I was referring to the city's part of the total tax bill. The municipal part of the budget is still going up, and we all wish that it wasn't, but it is at 1.7%, that's lower than last year's rate of inflation at 1.9%. And, it is not just "other people's money," it is ours too, we pay taxes just like everyone else. On a municipal level, we can't make up for the increases in the school budget, but since the voters pass it every year, we will live with it.



Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Jun 25, 2019 08:55

The weight of carrying the torch for those in the city that believe ever increasing property taxes are unsustainable is getting unbearable.  Parents are moving their children from our deteriorating schools and selling their homes to empty nesters who want to make Rockland just like Newport RI.  One thing is certain.  Democrats love to spend other people's money and this City council proves that point.  A 7.5% increase is considered "a good budget".  If a plane crashed and only killed half the people is that considered "a good landing" ?  Last year RSU 13 was given extra money by the state.  They spent it all plus more.  Now this year the state gives the city an additional $200,000 in municipal revenue sharing (which the city has been begging for) and it is all gone in a heartbeat, but in return we now have a "sustainability coordinator". Most people in town don't even know what that is. They did however make a valiant move in "eliminating fees for overdue library books".  Unfortunately it will now cost you 2% more to flush your toilet, so remember " yellow is mellow, if it's brown it's down"



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