When debate on the proposed Gardiner city budget begins in earnest this week, discussion is expected to focus on cutting the level of spending for the budget year that starts July 1 to bring about a cut in Gardiner’s property tax rate.

City officials have proposed a budget that would raise Gardiner’s municipal share of the property tax bill by 2.7 percent, and bring the tax rate from $22 per $1,000 of assessed valuation to $22.60 per $1,000.

Total spending for the city is projected to be a little over $6 million, but that could change in the coming weeks as city officials set spending policy for the next year.

“I appreciate that this is a flat budget, as currently constructed, but a lot of the reason for that is the cut in the share requested by SAD 11 from the various communities, including Gardiner,” Mayor Thom Harnett said at the April 18 City Council meeting.

“We are in a position where we can deliver a tax decrease to our residents, and I think that’s important to do,” Harnett said. “We have been sometimes critical of the school board for their increases in the budget or for not knowing how those are coming about until they are already done. But I don’t think we can take credit for a flat budget that is based primarily on a decrease in funding requested by the school district.”

At-large Councilor Tim Cusick said he agreed. He’s heard from many city residents who have said they hope the City Council can do what the school board did and deliver a decrease in taxes.

“I do think we need to sharpen the pencils,” Cusick said. “There are some things in the budget that are important, and there are some things that need to be cut.”

In addition to cuts to spending, city officials also have the option to tap into city reserves to buy down the tax rate, but city Finance Director Denise Brown pointed out that tapping the fund balance or other sources of one-time revenue is not a sustainable source of funding.

Brown said the Gardiner-area school board was able to achieve a lower assessment in part because of the planned closure of Teresa C. Hamlin School in Randolph.

City department heads are expected to send a revised spending plan to elected officials for review Wednesday.

Elected officials are expected to debate spending priorities Wednesday and again on May 16.

The public hearing and first reading of the budget is scheduled for June 6. A second public hearing and final vote on the budget is scheduled for June 20.

“We have an obligation to reduce taxes,” District 2 City Councilor Pat Hart said. “We have a situation in front of us where we can reduce the mill rate and allow everyone to grow. What do we have for everybody? If we cut the mill rate, that would touch everyone who pays taxes in the city and everyone who shares in that.”

City elected officials are also expected to:

• Hear a brief presentation from Jim Dinkle, the president of FirstPark/Kennebec Regional Development Authority.

• Hold a public hearing and have the first reading of proposed changes in the Land Use Ordinance appeal procedure.

• Hold a public hearing and have the first reading of proposed changes to hours of operation in the Land Use Ordinance.

• Hold a public hearing and have the second and final reading of a proposed extension to the moratorium on various marijuana activities.

• Consider accepting a proposal to buy 28 Spring St.

• Consider the sale of a tax-acquired property at 728 River Ave.

• Consider approving special event permits for the Memorial Day parade and the summer Waterfront concerts.

• Hear the quarterly financial update for the city.

An executive session to discuss the hiring of a city manager is scheduled for the end of the meeting.

The Gardiner City Council meets at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the City Council chamber at 6 Church St.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: