AUGUSTA — Crafting, debating and perhaps cutting the combined city and school budget will be on the agenda for city councilors.

In addition, the budget workshops will for the first time be viewable live on local access television or anytime on the Internet.

This year, rather than have separate budget workshops in addition to regularly scheduled council meetings, Mayor William Stokes suggested councilors work on the proposed $52.4 million budget almost exclusively at regularly scheduled, televised council meetings.

To free up time to work on the budget during council meetings, nonessential items of routine council business will be held off until after the budget review process, which is tentatively projected to wrap up around the end of May or beginning of June.

“The mayor and council want to make an effort to have more people be exposed to … the budget process,” City Manager William Bridgeo said. “They feel it is really important this year, given all the issues, to televise a lot of the budget sessions. We’ll try to keep routine business to a minimum so we’ll have that time to work on the budget.”

Stokes said the change will fulfill two goals: getting the public more aware and engaged in the budget review, and making councilors’ time more efficient by reducing the number of additional meetings.

The first meeting at which councilors will review the budget begins at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in council chambers at Augusta City Center.

Bridgeo, who submitted his proposed budget to councilors last week, said their review process would start Thursday with an overview of the budget, and a review of net revenues, county tax and administrative accounts.

The tentative budget review schedule projects public safety spending to be reviewed at the April 11 council meeting, and the school department April 18, followed by public works, Hatch Hill landfill and central garage reviews April 25.

Council meetings are generally broadcast live on local access television CTV-7, and are both streamed live and recorded for later viewing on the Internet at www.townhallstreams.com/locations/augusta-me.

Bridgeo’s proposed $52.4 million budget, which doesn’t include nearly $700,000 in spending added recently to the school budget, would raise city property taxes by 4 percent. With the additional proposed school spending included, the tax increase would rise to about 7 percent.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647
[email protected]