GARDINER — City elected officials are starting their review of a proposed $6.35 million municipal budget that’s nearly 5 percent higher than the current year’s spending plan, and much of that increase is a result of factors that city officials can’t change.

“We haven’t gone through the whole budget yet,” Mayor Patricia Hart said. “The proposed budget maintains current city services and also accommodates some unforeseen large expenses. We could not have predicted some of these.”

In her presentation of the proposed spending plan for the 2020 fiscal year that starts July 1, City Manager Christine Landes said Wednesday that the bulk of the increase, about 74 percent, comes from workers’ compensation rate increases, the increased cost of dispatching through the state’s Regional Communication Center, as well as benefits and negotiated pay raises.

Earlier this year, Gardiner was notified by the state’s Regional Communications Center in Augusta that — along with 21 other communities in the county and the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office — the city would have to secure dispatching services elsewhere. A compromise has led to those communities continuing to be served by the RCC, but at a higher cost.

The proposed spending plan also reflects a full year of funding for the city’s economic development director, about $37,000 in matching funds for a submitted grant to pay for a new firetruck and a sidewalk tractor to replace a 20-year-old model that’s becoming expensive to maintain.

The city’s spending would be paid for through a combination of $3.2 million in property tax, $1.1 million in excise tax, state revenue sharing, use of $225,000 of the city’s undesignated fund balance, as well as fees and fines, grants and investment earnings, among other things.

As the spending plan now stands, the property tax rate would increase by 60 cents — or 2.8 percent — bringing it to $22 per $1,000 of valuation. In Gardiner, where the median home price is $146,900, the tax increase for that home would be $88, for a total of $3,231.80.

Wednesday’s work session, the first of two, covered proposed budgets for general government, technology, the Police and Fire departments, public works, Gardiner Public Library and planning and development.

Gardiner Mayor Patricia Hart discusses her agenda for the city Jan. 19 at the Gardiner Food Co-op. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy

A second work session, scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, will cover community and social services, intergovernmental budgets, the capital improvement plan, revenue, the tax rate effect, the tax increment finance districts, and enterprise funds for the Gardiner Ambulance Service and Gardiner Wastewater Treatment.

Gardiner’s municipal budget makes up more than half of the property tax bill that Gardiner residents receive. The rest comes from the city’s share of the Gardiner-area school district budget, and the city’s share of the Kennebec County budget.

Gardiner city officials are expected to meet with the School Administrative District 11 board on May 6 to discuss the budgets.

Here’s budget review and approval schedule:

• April 22: budget workshop

• May 8: public hearing, discussion and debate

• May 22: public hearing discussion and debate

• June 5: public hearing and first read

• June 19: second and final read

All meetings are expected to start at 6 p.m.

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