AUGUSTA — The property tax rate might not change from previous projections, despite Augusta having an additional $796,135 in state funding for education that came with the recent passage of the state budget.

City councilors and school board members are meeting separately this week to determine what to do with the additional state funding for education. In Augusta, city councilors have the final say on how much is spent on both city and school needs, but the school board determines how to spend the money councilors appropriate for the schools.

A draft proposal put together by Ralph St. Pierre, the city’s finance director and assistant city manager, proposes to appropriate half the new state funding, or $398,067, for the schools. How it would be spent would be left up to the school board.

The proposal would use $151,162 of the $796,135 to help prevent an additional potential property tax increase, and $246,906 to be allocated to the schools later or left unspent to go into the fund balance to be used to offset taxes in future years.

St. Pierre said the goal of the proposal is to honor city councilors’ stated desire to comply with the intent of the Legislature in increasing state funding for education, which he said generally was to provide more money for schools and provide some level of property tax relief.

The $151,162 is the maximum amount Augusta can decrease local property taxes for education without falling under the required local contribution to qualify for the state education funding Augusta receives, according to St. Pierre. So he recommends reducing property taxes by that amount and replacing that tax revenue with the new state money. However, the state budget also reduced the state’s contribution to reimburse municipalities for the Homestead Exemption program. And that change resulted in a reduction in state revenue for Augusta of $150,964, coincidentally almost the same amount of money St. Pierre recommends the city use from the additional state education funds to help provide property tax relief.

So the net result of those two changes would be that the city’s tax rate next year, previously projected to increase to about $20.38 per $1,000 of property value when councilors approved the $59.3 million city and school budget, would not change from that projection.

The property tax rate is now $19.79 for every $1,000 of assessed property value.

The school board is scheduled to meet at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the cafeteria at the Capital Area Technical Center to discuss the additional state funding and what it could be used for — including, potentially, restoring programs, staff members or other spending cut from the school budget.

City councilors plan to meet Thursday to consider amending the combined city and school budget to reflect the additional revenue from the state.

Last week, City Manager William Bridgeo told city councilors the legislation that resulted in a new state budget requires municipalities to use 50 percent of the additional state funding for property tax relief. However, Bridgeo said this week, in a memo to councilors, that is not actually the case. He said because the state budget was adopted so late, that requirement won’t take effect until the following budget year.

St. Pierre also said city voters approved a resolve, as part of the school budget validation process, that gives councilors the authority to determine how to use any additional education funding that comes from the state.

“It appears that because of the way our school budget validation referendum was worded, council has complete flexibility to determine what happens with this year’s $796,185 in new money,” Bridgeo said Monday in his memo to councilors. “That said, it’s clear that the Legislature’s intent was two-fold: first to provide some level of property tax relief and second to infuse more money into funding public education.”

Bridgeo and St. Pierre said councilors need to act quickly so the city still will have time to set the tax commitment and have tax bills printed in time to get them to local residents at least 30 days before the first tax payment due date, which traditionally has been Sept. 14.

Councilors are scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. Thursday in the council chamber at Augusta City Center.

Councilors are also scheduled to:

• Hear a presentation on the World to Table/New Mainers Project;

• Consider awarding the 2017 Edwards Dam Scholarship, of $500, to Molly Silsby;

• Consider accepting $6,000 in grant funding from the state Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife for enforcement of all-terrain vehicle laws;

• Consider accepting a $2,000 donation from the Augusta Elks lodge to help cover fees for weekly excursions and special entertainment for children attending the city’s child care program;

• Consider sending a referendum question to voters in November, which seeks authorization to create a charter commission to review and revise the city charter and to elect members to it; and

• Consider appropriating $230,000, from other road improvement accounts, to reconstruct Leavitt Road.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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