HALLOWELL — The City Council unanimously approved a nearly $5.7 million municipal budget for the next fiscal year during its meeting Monday.

The budget is up 5 percent over the previous year, in large part because of the increase in the city’s responsibility to Regional School Unit 2. The increased budget would raise the tax rate from $17.60 to $18.90 per $1,000 of valuation.

The approved budget includes about $2.4 million in expenditures and more than $2.8 million toward RSU 2’s operating budget.

The Council also discussed the possibility of using Hallowell’s reserve of block grant funding, about $238,000, to help the construction of a low- to moderate-income housing development on the Stevens School campus on Winthrop Street.

The Council voted to authorize City Manager Nate Rudy to enter into negotiations with Stevens School owner Matt Morrill for potential use of the block grants. Morrill said he is committed to presenting a master plan sometime in September.

Councilor George LaPointe, chairman of the finance committee, said the city is looking into commissioning a study to find whether or not there is a market for low- and moderate-income housing in Hallowell. It is unclear how much the study would cost, and Rudy will be soliciting bids for the study soon.

The Council spent a few minutes talking about a new whistleblower policy, which was first brought up in July when it was referred to the personnel committee for further review. The policy is intended to protect city officials, employees and supervisors at all levels who report illegal, unsafe, unethical or inappropriate behaviors or practices.

The personnel committee will meet again before presenting a final draft of the policy to the council in September.

Earlier in the evening, Elaina George, who spearheaded the effort to put an Oxford House, sober-living facility on Town Farm Road in Hallowell, gave a presentation at the request of the Council on the Oxford House organization and her goals for the new facility, which opened Aug. 1.

Councilor Alan Stearns welcomed George and the house to Hallowell and invited her to come back to the Council if she encountered any resistance from the community.

Resistance came after George had already made her presentation and left the building. Larry Davis, who lives near the new Oxford House, arrived at City Hall thinking the meeting started at 7 p.m. and expecting to hear George and then express his concerns to the Council.

Davis said his neighbors have asked him to speak on their behalf about the issues and concerns they have with the presence of the Oxford House in the neighborhood. The Council invited Davis back in September to speak during the public comment period at the beginning of the meeting.

Councilor Lisa Harvey-McPherson, who represents the ward where the sober house is located, offered to facilitate a meeting between Davis and others with concern and representatives from the Oxford House, but Davis said he wanted to speak to the council directly.

Oxford House is protected from discrimination by the Fair Housing Act, so despite concerns from Davis or any others, there is nothing the city can do.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ