AUGUSTA — City councilors set to vote on the city and school budget Thursday remain divided over at least three scenarios, all of which still result in a tax increase.

One proposal would leave the projected tax increase at 4.4 percent, and two would reduce the tax increase below 4 percent by making cuts and other budget adjustments.

“There are a number of scenarios before us, but there is no scenario that will have no ramifications on one side or the other,” said Mayor David Rollins who, as mayor, would vote only if councilors end up in a tie vote. “I suggest finding the scenario that does the most good and the least harm. I think with our collective reasoning we can get to that.”

Councilors last week informally agreed not to ask the school board to make additional cuts to the $27.9 million school budget the board approved March 25. But with a special council meeting to vote on the combined municipal and school budget planned for 6:30 p.m. Thursday in council chambers at Augusta City Center, councilors remain unable yet to reach consensus on the final details of the municipal budget.

Instead, the three proposals, each supported by one or more councilors, remain on the table.

City Manager William Bridgeo’s initial $55.1 million city and school budget submission to councilors would have carried a 5.4 percent tax increase.

The first proposal, based largely on Bridgeo’s plan and a series of budget adjustments, would increase property taxes 4.4 percent. Ward 1 Councilor Linda Conti expressed support for making no changes to that plan.

A second proposal made last week, by Ward 3 Councilor Patrick Paradis, who modified a proposal first offered by Ward 2 Councilor Darek Grant, would make an additional $100,000 in cuts to the city budget and take another $46,000 from the city’s undesignated fund balance account, resulting in a budget requiring a 3.9 percent property tax increase.

A third proposal, from At-Large Councilor Jeffrey Bilodeau, would make the same $100,000 in cuts and use $225,000 in savings from the city’s recent refinancing of employee pension debt as part of the financing package to pay for the renovation and expansion of the Lithgow Public Library. That would lower the property tax increase to just under 3.3 percent.

The $100,000 in cuts in both the sub-4-percent tax increase scenarios include $20,000 in supplies and equipment from the Fire Department, $20,000 in savings in the Police Department anticipated because two proposed new detective positions likely won’t be filled until a couple of months into the fiscal year, $20,500 from public works by reducing asphalt crushing and reclamation, $24,500 in savings from reducing tipping fees at Hatch Hill landfill for waste brought there by public works, and $15,000 by reducing seasonal help in parks and cemeteries.

Bilodeau, in a move Ward 4 Councilor Anna Blodgett said she could support, wants to use $225,000 in one-time savings from the recent refinancing of pension debt to soften the hit on taxpayers further. The money was part of the financing plan for the renovation and expansion of Lithgow Public Library. In future years those savings would be used to cover the anticipated increased operating costs of the larger library once its expansion is complete. But this year, with the library not yet expanded, the money is available for other uses.

Bridgeo’s initial budget proposal would use that $225,000 in savings from refinancing existing employee pension debt to help fund unspecified one-time future capital improvement projects, which generally include items such as paving and major building improvements. Bilodeau said those funds should instead be used to reduce taxes.

However, it could have the indirect effect of leaving the appearance, when it comes time to consider the fiscal year 2017 budget, that the Lithgow expansion resulted in a property tax increase. That’s because the $225,000 will be needed to cover increased operating and maintenance costs when the newer, much bigger Lithgow Public Library opens.

Some councilors, the mayor and administrators pledged, in advocating for passage of bonds for the Lithgow project, that the project would not require a property tax increase.

Rollins and Paradis said using that $225,000 in one-time savings will leave a hole in next year’s budget, because it won’t be available to reduce taxes again.

The school’s share of the budget will go to voters in a school budget validation referendum June 9, while the city’s portion of the budget requires only approval by councilors.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj