GARDINER — An already lean city budget is now leaner, and it’s headed to the next step in the approval process later this month.

Based on direction from the Gardiner City Council, city department heads identified a series of cuts and some additional revenue to roll back an anticipated increase of 45 cents per $1,000 of valuation to 20 cents.

That puts the city’s proposed budget at $5,662,376, and the estimated tax rate at $21.70 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, although neither the School Administrative District 11 budget nor the Kennebec County budget have been approved yet.

City Finance Director Denise Brown said the projected amount of state revenue sharing has been increased, and additional money is available through the city’s cable franchise and through interest, resulting in $22,136 in additional revenue.

On the expense side, department heads identified $62,500 in cuts, including $3,500 for fire call crew training and gear and $2,100 budgeted for reserve officers.

Police Chief James Toman, who started at the Gardiner Police Department as a reserve officer, said as contracts and the demands of the job have changed, the department’s use of reserves has dropped; and in the last two years, reserve officers haven’t been used at all.

Fire Chief Al Nelson said his budget request reflected paying the costs of training and outfitting additional call firefighters.

“But people aren’t beating down the door,” Nelson said, a trend that’s being played out nationally.

The biggest single cut identified was $30,000, earmarked to pay for a broadband internet study for Gardiner, based on a recommendation of the city’s Technology Advisory Committee. It came at the suggestion of the committee, which had advocated strongly for the funding in April.

Cuts in other expenses included $15,000 for salt, $4,800 for electricity and $5,000 for legal services.

At-large city councilors Jon Ault and Timothy Cusick sought the cuts two weeks ago as the City Council started its debate of the proposed spending plan for the fiscal year that starts July 1. At the same time, District 4 Councilor Philip Hart also has asked that $32,000 from the city’s fund balance be designated for an additional police vehicle and safety equipment. Because the money would come from fund balance, it would not come from tax revenue this year.

The proposed budget will be debated and discussed twice more — at its first reading on May 17 and its anticipated second and final reading on June 7. Residents will have the chance to comment at both of those meetings.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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