Gardiner City Council is scheduled at its meeting Wednesday night to continue its discussion of a proposed budget that calls for a nearly 8 percent tax hike.
Also on the agenda is the review of new land use ordinances, including a proposed policy to allow the commercial use of older buildings in residential areas, and a presentation from property owners on their plan to settle concerns about a home on Partridge Road.
Councilors will also review a proposal to operate a beer tent at the Waterfront Park during an annual summer festival.
The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. at City Hall.
The proposed $5,564,117 city budget is up 6.2 percent from the current one. It would require a 5 percent tax increase, and the anticipated county and school budgets would raise taxes another 2.5 percent.
If all the budgets are approved, it would raise the current $19.90 per $1,000 of assessed value tax rate to $21.40. That represents a $220 annual tax increase for the median home, valued at roughly $147,000 in Gardiner.
Council must hold two readings and public hearings on the budget before it’s approved.
At the last meeting on April 30, several residents told councilors to not raise taxes, and one councilor, Patricia Hart, said she thinks the council needs to look at the budget to try to prevent that level of tax increase.
City Manager Scott Morelli said he expects the council to give him direction regarding the budget and whether they want him and city staff to present other options. He said he could propose a budget with a smaller tax increase, but it would require reductions in city services.
“We could come back with a budget that doesn’t raise taxes at all,” Morelli said. “It’s just a matter of what people are willing to live without. Are they willing to sacrifice road maintenance or public safety or library hours?”
The city has kept taxes flat for two years in a row and have avoided a tax increase as a result of the municipal budget in three of the last four years.
Last year, Morelli recommended a budget with a 2.5 percent tax increase, but city staff later proposed an additional $185,000 in cuts and savings after some councilors and residents objected to a tax hike. The cuts resulted in eliminating a significant portion of the road paving budget for this year and no longer funding a part-time librarian for the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Gardiner.
Before the budget discussion, the city’s assessor, Curt Lebel, will give an overview of the assessing process in response to concerns voiced at the last meeting about how the city assesses the value of properties.
Also at Wednesday’s meeting, councilors are expected to hold the first reading and public hearing for proposed land use ordinance changes, but the Planning Board must first make its recommendations at its meeting Tuesday night. The Ordinance Review Committee signed off on the proposals at its meeting April 28.
The most significant proposed ordinance is a policy that would allow some commercial uses in older industrial or institutional buildings, such as former churches or schools, in the high-density residential zone.
The adaptive reuse overlay district would give the city the framework to allow building reuse on a case-by-case basis. It could only be used for buildings that are no longer economically viable or physically suitable for uses allowed in the districts in which they’re located.
The Planning Board and City Council would still need to approve each site proposal.
Councilors at Wednesday’s meeting will hear from a developer of a Partridge Road property on how a house under construction will be fixed to match the style of the other homes in the neighborhood.
Linda Adams bought two properties from the city last year, and the purchase-and-sale agreements required houses built on the lots to be of a comparable style and square footage to the other houses on the one-way street.
However, residents of the neighborhood voiced concerns at a council meeting April 16 that the house being built by Adams’ husband, Mike Adams, doesn’t look similar to the other ones. For instance, the partially completed home has a blue metal roof, while the other houses have shingled roofs.
Morelli said the city and its attorney have discussed the issue with Mike Adams and his lawyer. Councilors will discuss at their meeting whether they approve of the Adams’ plan to comply with the agreement.
Councilors are also scheduled to review:
â€¢ liquor license renewals for Pastaz and Water Street Grill;
â€¢ new billing rates for the ambulance service;
â€¢ applications for the Greater Gardiner River Festival to use the Waterfront Park for the June 21 event, have a beer tent and do a fireworks display;
â€¢ a special events permit for Johnson Hall Performing Arts Center, in collaboration with the city and Gardiner Main Street, to hold outdoor concerts at the Waterfront Park starting Thursday.