GARDINER — Nonprofit organizations that receive money from the city faced questions from a city councilor Wednesday night during a discussion about the city’s proposed budget.

Maureen Blanchard, a councilor from Dresden Avenue who was elected in November, asked representatives from several organizations why they need money from the city and questioned details of their operations, including their revenue, fundraising strategies and employee salaries.

Blanchard said she grilled the nonprofit organizations because she wants to be prepared when people stop her in the grocery store and ask why she raised their taxes.

“I’m going to say I put everybody through the hot coals,” she said. “No exception.”

During last year’s budget discussion, before she was a councilor, Blanchard criticized the previous council for raising taxes while giving to nonprofit organizations. She said at a local candidates’ forum in October that she didn’t think the city should give money to some nonprofit organizations, including the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Gardiner, Gardiner Main Street and the Johnson Hall Performing Arts Center.

Blanchard repeatedly questioned the executive director of the Boys & Girls Club, Ingrid Stanchfield, about the $51,572 the city proposes to give her organization, asking why seniors in the city should pay for the organization’s Halloween party.


“I think you do a wonderful job, but my bottom line and my bottom goal is to not raise taxes,” Blanchard told Stanchfield.

Other councilors defended the funding, saying the amount the city gives the organization is the only money spent on youth services. Stanchfield said the organization also hosts free meals for seniors and assisted victims of a fire at a senior housing building in February.

Blanchard said she thinks if the amounts the city gives to nonprofit organizations reflect the city’s values, the amounts should be shifted, apparently to give more to food pantries. She said donations from the city should reflect need, not want or desire.

City Manager Scott Morelli is proposing giving $115,672 to eight nonprofit organizations, more than $100,000 of which would go to the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Gardiner, Gardiner Main Street and the Johnson Hall Performing Arts Center.

The proposed $5.48 million municipal budget presented by Morelli to councilors in April would raise property taxes by 3.4 percent. When including the proposed school budget, property taxes in Gardiner would increase by 5.8 percent, representing a $177 increase on a median home in the city, valued at about $147,000, according to Morelli.

Last year, councilors approved a city budget with a 1.5 percent tax increase and a total increase of 4 percent when including the school budget. Because the city had more new value than anticipated, however, the tax increase was only 3.5 percent.


In three of the last four years before that, the city kept taxes flat in its portion of the budget.

The next fiscal year begins in July, but it appears the City Council won’t approve a budget until after then, partly because a consultant reviewing the city’s services won’t deliver its presentation until June. When that happened in previous years, councilors approved continuing resolutions to keep spending at current levels until the new budgets were approved.

Councilors voted at the end of last year to seek a consultant to review what the city pays and receives for services. The consultant, New Hampshire-based Municipal Resources Inc., is reviewing the city’s four major departments: police, fire and ambulance, library and public works.

The review will examine how much the services cost and any alternatives to the city services, for instance, using the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office for law enforcement instead of the full-time city department, Morelli said.

Councilors are scheduled to hear the presentation from the consultant June 17, and a public forum to discuss the report will need to be held sometime after that, Morelli said.

Paul Koenig — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @pdkoenig

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