AUGUSTA — A city and school budget — incorporating spending cuts proposed to avoid a tax increase — is up for approval Thursday by city councilors.

The $65.2 million budget, as currently proposed, would reduce the amount of money needed from taxpayers by $195,000 compared to the first budget proposal, and keep the tax rate the same as it is now.

Cuts proposed include $10,000 in overtime funding for both the Police and Fire departments despite concerns that overtime costs have been rising, $20,000 in savings by leasing instead of buying a data storage device, $12,000 from not purchasing code enforcement software, a $5,000 reduction in money earmarked to help rid city lawns of a grub infestation, and $5,000 for signs.

It also would provide $87,000 less in education funding than was approved by the school board when it approved the school budget, meaning there will need to be that much in cuts, or revenue increases, or a combination of both, from the school budget.

In Augusta, the school board approves the school budget, but city councilors approve total spending for the city and schools. So it will be up to school officials to decide how to make up the $87,000 change sought by councilors, by either cutting expenses or adding revenue, such as increased use of reserve funds, to the school budget.

City Manager William Bridgeo’s initially proposed budget would have required a small tax increase, of 0.6%. But a series of changes recently proposed by Ralph St. Pierre, finance director and assistant city manager, would eliminate that increase. The result is the tax rate remaining at the current $20.97 for every $1,000 of assessed property value.


That would mean the property taxes of the owner of an average single family home in Augusta assessed at $130,000, if deducting $20,000 in value for the state homestead exemption, would be $2,307 for the year.

“The big news is we will not have a tax increase this year in the city of Augusta, so well done,” Mayor David Rollins said at a budget workshop last week.

City councilors are scheduled to vote whether to approve the proposed total budget at their 6:30 p.m. meeting Thursday, in the council chamber at Augusta City Center.

Bridgeo’s budget had included a $143,000 increase in overtime money for the Fire Department, because it was projected to be over budget for overtime by about $260,000 this year. Bridgeo said there still should be enough overtime money, with the proposed cut, to ensure the overtime budget isn’t overspent by such a large degree again next year.

The budget incorporates a $20,700 reduction in Augusta’s share of the county budget, since the Kennebec County budget was finalized, with a lower amount than projected, after the first draft of the city budget was written.

Budget changes, in addition to the aforementioned cuts, also add funding in two areas, a $30,000 increase for cybersecurity, an expense proposed to be shared with the School Department; and a $12,200 increase in funds for gasoline for the Public Works Department.

Bridgeo said the cybersecurity spending is proposed in direct response to a cyberattack that disabled the city’s computer network this year. It will pay for new firewall software, monitoring by a security firm and equipment recommended by both a consultant and city information technology staff.

The city’s total property valuation, or tax base, is projected to increase for the coming year, by $2.7 million, bringing in an additional $56,400 in property tax revenue.

The budget would take $27,000 more in revenue from the city’s child care program, which Bridgeo said has a strong, roughly $350,000 fund balance, and use that money to pay for extending the hours Lithgow Public Library is open, to all day, on Saturdays. The library now is open only 9 a.m. to noon on Saturdays.

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