Gardiner City Council will hold the final public hearing for a municipal budget that would increase property taxes by 1.5 percent, leading to an overall tax hike of 4 percent for residents.

The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday at City Hall.

Councilors at their meeting last week gave initial approval to the $9.13 million overall budget and $5.45 million city budget. Only two residents spoke at the public hearing, asking the city to keep taxes flat for the third straight year.

If approved Wednesday, the city budget, along with the school and county budgets, would increase the tax rate from $19.90 per $1,000 of assessed value to $20.70 and add $117 to the tax bill of the median home valued at $147,000. The city’s portion of the increase would be 30 cents and the school’s would be 50 cents.

Gardiner residents already approved the $22.4 million Regional School Unit 11 budget, 441-208 margin. The budget increased the amount the city will pay by roughly $147,000. The proposed city budget would increase the amount needed to be raised by taxes by $105,000.

The expected tax increase from the proposed budget is half of what was originally proposed by City Manager Scott Morelli in April.

Morelli has laid some of the blame for the tax increase on the state continuing to not fully fund municipal revenue sharing. The state is supposed to give part of the taxes it collects, including portions of sales and use taxes and income taxes, to municipalities to help ease the property tax burden for Mainers.

If the city had been given the $540,000 it expected from the state, it could cut taxes by $103 for the median home instead of raising them by $117, Morelli said.

“That’s a decent sum,” he said. “I think it speaks to the importance of revenue sharing, the importance it has on communities and the impact it trickles down to and has on residents and taxpayers.”

Morelli has emphasized that if the proposed budget passes, it would be the first time in three years with a tax increase and the second time in five years the city’s share of the budget has increased taxes.

Councilors are also expected to approve a Sept. 15 due date for the collection of the first half of taxes and a March 16 due date for the second half.

Also at the meeting, the director of Gardiner Public Library will present a proposal to stop issuing library cards to people not from the five communities that pay to be part of the library to discourage towns from leaving the partnership. The town of Farmingdale left the library in 2009 and instead reimburses its residents for the $65-per-household membership fee they have to pay the library to be members.

Library Director Anne Davis said she is proposing a three-year moratorium on new nonresident library cards because the town of Randolph is again considering switching to the Farmingdale model to save money. Last year Randolph residents approved continuing to be members of the library after one selectman voted to recommend leaving the service.

Davis said the revenue from the partner communities is needed to continue operating the library without shrinking what it offers. After Farmingdale left the service, the number of households with library cards in the town dropped from 325 to about 75 currently, she said.

In other city news, Gardiner restarted its search for a new fire chief. The city hired Dan Guimond, who retired from the Augusta Fire Department as a battalion chief in December, in March. The city had considered merging the fire and police chief roles after Fire Chief Mike Minkowksy announced he would be stepping down at the end March, but the city put that decision on hold while a consultant reviewed the finances of the city’s ambulance service.

The roughly 40 applicants who applied when the city first listed the job will still be considered, Morelli said. The qualifications and job posting is listed on the city’s website.

Paul Koenig — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @paul_koenig


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