GARDINER — City councilors gave final approval Wednesday night to a budget that will keep taxes flat for the second year in a row.

The budget, including the school and county, totals $8.77 million.

The city had to make cuts to its originally proposed budget to avoid a tax increase, as the result of a state budget that reduced municipal revenue sharing.

City staff came up with an additional $185,000 in cuts and savings after some councilors and residents objected to a tax hike.

The largest additional cuts came from eliminating the half of the road paving budget allocated for new paving, no longer funding a part-time librarian for the Boys & Girls Club, and not funding the purchase of new air packs for the fire department.

“I know there were cuts made that were painful to many people,” Mayor Thomas Harnett said.
City Manager Scott Morelli had proposed raising taxes 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed value to cover the shortfall from the cuts to revenue sharing.

Gardiner’s tax rate is $19.90 per $1,000 of assessed value.

Some councilors objected to raising taxes because they already planned on taking $175,000 from the city’s fund balance in Morelli’s original proposal to prevent the budget from increasing the tax rate.

Harnett said he has heard from people pleased that the city kept the tax rate flat and below the $20 per $1,000 of assessed value mark.

“I told them to remember that if they have any bumps on certain streets in town,” he said.
The elimination of the part-time librarian position, which has been vacant for about a month, at the Boys & Girls Club will eliminate the club’s library.

The city could face a budget gap approaching $600,000 in fiscal year 2015 if it doesn’t get additional money from the state or increase its revenue base through development.

“It was a tough budget, and it’s going to be tougher next year,” Councilor Logan Johnston said.
He said he has already heard concerns from people about next budget season.

The fiscal year 2014 budget will go into effect in 10 days from Wednesday. The city has been operating on a continuing resolution since July 1, the start of its fiscal year, funded at the levels in the proposed budget.

Councilors also approved liquor license renewals for Canton Village Chinese Restaurant and The Bench Sports Bar & Grill at their Wednesday meeting, and the first reading of the 2013/2014 general assistance ordinance.

Paul Koenig — 621-5663
pkoenig@mainetoday.com