GARDINER — The final reading of Gardiner’s spending plan for the budget year that starts July 1 came with no public comment and ended with a unanimous vote of the elected officials present to adopt it.

With this budget, Gardiner’s property tax rate will be $21.70 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, a 20-cent increase over the current rate.

That amount reflects only the municipal portion of a Gardiner tax bill.

“I think it’s important to let people know we have worked hard to maintain the level of service they said they wanted, and we did it giving some of them a tax break,” District 4 City Councilor Philip Hart said.

The city’s spending plan includes funding for two relief programs for Gardiner taxpayers who qualify.

The Senior Citizen Property Tax Relief Program offers relief to current residents 65 and older who have lived in Gardiner for at least 10 years. Any Gardiner property owner or renter who has received the Property Tax Fairness Credit from the state will receive an equal amount from the city, subject to City Council funding. In 2016, Maine Revenue Services data show 284 residents received the credit in 2015, with a median benefit of $246. At that rate, the city could provide relief to 203 residents at the current proposed level of funding.

Under the Sewer Discount Program, the city has determined that anyone whose household income does not exceed 70 percent of the median household income, based on the most recent U.S. Census data, qualifies for the program.

As it now stands, city officials will appropriate $5,548,401.51 for the general fund budget to pay for city departments and projects for another year. They also approved the ambulance and wastewater enterprise funds, which are supported by user fees, not property tax.

While that reflects an increase, not all taxpayers will see an increase in their tax bills. Because of the expansion of the state’s homestead exemption, about half of the city’s taxpayers will see a decrease in their tax bills.

The budget was first presented in early March shortly before then-City Manager Scott Morelli left to accept the city manager position in South Portland.

Over the course of the next three months, city elected officials heard presentations from department heads and debated priorities set out in the spending document, which had been characterized as lean. That debate resulted in two significant requests. The first was for a cut of $87,000 to reduce the expected tax rate increase from 45 cents to 20 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation. The second was an increase of $32,000 to pay for an additional police car and safety equipment for police officers. Because it came from existing city funds, the tax rate was unaffected.

The final budget reflects those changes.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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