HALLOWELL — The City Council’s Finance Committee is recommending that the city scale back on capital improvements and hire a private ambulance service as a way to trim the municipal budget.

The committee’s draft budget reduces municipal spending by 10 percent, from $2.4 million to $2.15 million, but property taxes could increase 12 percent or more because of an increased school budget and a projected cut in revenue sharing from the state.

The City Council will hold a first reading of the budget at a special meeting scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday.

On the agenda are presentations from the Augusta Fire Department, which has provided emergency medical services for Hallowell since 1975, and Delta Ambulance.

Although Hallowell officials are satisfied with the service the city has received from Augusta, Ward Two Councilor Mark Walker said the Finance Committee is recommending that the city contract with Delta Ambulance, which would not charge to provide emergency medical services.

“That’s a $26,000 savings, and in this budget we felt we had to do that,” Walker said.

Hallowell pays Augusta $9 per resident and reimbursement for calls for which Augusta can’t collect payment from Hallowell residents or their insurance providers. That totaled $26,473 this year.

The budget also calls for reducing capital improvements spending by about $100,000. Some of the reductions are the result of projects wrapping up without new ones replacing them.

City Manager Michael Starn said about $40,000 budgeted for capital improvements did not get spent this year, so that can be carried forward for smaller projects such as paving or replacing a culvert on Central Street.

The draft budget also makes significant reductions in donations to community organizations such as Kennebec County Community Assistance Program, the Family Violence Project and Hallowell’s joint recreation program with Farmingdale.

Two years ago, Hallowell spent $68,000 on such donations, but the 2013-14 budget calls for only $45,100.

Walker said most of the budget reductions should not have a direct impact on residents. He said the committee briefly considered cutting city staff — in the police department or public works, for example — but decided not to.

Projections based on the state budget passed by the Legislature call for Hallowell to lose one-third of its revenue sharing income, or $62,355.

The Regional School Unit 2 budget, meanwhile, increases the local assessment for Hallowell by $444,491, or 22 percent.

Officials won’t know for sure how the city budget will affect taxpayers for several more weeks, until the city’s taxable valuation is determined.

Last year the valuation rose by a half-percent, but Starn said he is cautiously optimistic that it will be 1 percent this year. If that happens and City Council approves the budget as presented, it will cause an 11.9 percent increase in property taxes, equating to $17.57 per $1,000 in taxable value.

If the increase in valuation is once again one-half percent, the budget would increase taxes by 12.5 percent, or $17.66 per $1,000 in value.

Susan McMillan — 621-5645
[email protected]

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