AUGUSTA — The proposed $59.7 million school and city budget drew no comments Thursday at a public hearing.

The budget,as first proposed by City Manager William Bridgeo, would increase the property tax rate by 5.23 percent. Though Bridgeo said Thursday that version of the budget being approved is unlikely. He said multiple positive developments in both revenue and expenses should help lessen the impact of the budget on taxpayers and allow for a lower tax increase than initially projected.

And Mayor David Rollins noted changes to the state Homestead Exemption program, increasing the amount homeowners are allowed to deduct from the taxable value of their primary residences from $15,000 to $20,000, mean most city homeowners’ property taxes will decrease, despite the projected increase in the tax rate.

“The Homestead Exemption is certainly going to soften the pain for the residential taxpayers. Unfortunately, the business taxpayers are going to have to pay the full Monty, because they can’t use the Homestead Exemption,” Rollins said.

Bridgeo said the owner of the average-value home in Augusta, valued at $115,000, would see a decrease of about $50 in the property tax bill, if the tax rate is reduced to 3 percent.

While he said the 3 percent figure was just an example of where the property tax increase could end up, he said some changes in both projected expenditures and revenue are expected to soften the proposed city and school budget’s effect on taxpayers.

Changes in projected expenses and revenue since Bridgeo first proposed a budget add up to nearly $470,000 less in money that would be needed from taxpayers to fund the budget.

A $470,000 decrease in money to come from taxes would equate to a roughly 1.5 percent decrease to the tax rate proposed by Bridgeo, which he previously projected would be $20.83 per $1,000 of property value. So the tax rate, if the changes hold and no other changes are made to the budget, could decrease from the initial estimate to about $20.50.

The property tax rate is now $19.79.

The projected changes since the initial budget was proposed include a $300,000 decrease in health insurance costs for school employees, a $40,000 decrease in Augusta’s share of the Kennebec County budget, a potential $58,000 decrease in the city’s increased costs because of a proposed Greater Augusta Utility District stormwater rate increase, and a $110,000 increase in revenue sharing from the state.

Bridgeo said the potential increase in state revenue sharing is based on a recently revised estimate. That figure still could change, in either direction, as the proposed state budget makes its way through the Legislature.

Those positive budget changes would be offset partially by a plan to add $40,000 in expenses back into the wages budget for part-time parks and cemeteries workers. Bridgeo said the city doesn’t seem to be getting any applicants seeking those part-time jobs with the city advertising pay of $9.50 per hour. Increasing that pay by $1 an hour to try to attract more job applicants, Bridgeo said, would increase the budget by $40,000.

City councilors have held several workshops to examine the budget and are scheduled tentatively to consider voting to adopt the budget at their May 25 meeting.

“I’m optimistic the things that are materializing on the plus side are going to outweigh the negative,” Bridgeo said of the budget changes. “And you’ll be able to impact, in a positive fashion, that 5.23 percent increase.”

The school budget, once approved by city councilors as part of the overall budget, is expected to go to residents for a referendum vote June 13.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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