HALLOWELL — City councilors moved forward on the budget Monday, sending expense and revenue budgets to an anticipated final reading in August.

At the public hearing before the council action, residents pleaded with councilors to increase funding for the Hubbard Free Library from an anticipated $42,000 to $60,000, but the draft budget stays firm at $42,000.

On a 5-1 vote, the council approved the second reading of a $6,474,883 expense budget, in total spending, with $3,145,818 being municipal spending. Last year’s spending totaled $5,773,289, but city officials said the new budget contained important backlogged capital expenditures.

Council action followed a short public hearing. Councilor Kate Dufour summarized the Finance Committee’s consensus on the budget before the hearing, saying the council has taken the budget slowly by design. The council postponed the second reading twice in June.

“It’s reflective of the fact that we want to get this right,” she said. “We’re not going to make everybody happy, but our goal is to get somewhere (in) the middle.”

The council also moved forward $1,070,046 in municipal revenue, a 5.5% increase over last year’s municipal revenue of $1,013,895.

The council included $100,875.80 in offsets from the city’s tax increment financing, which would reduce the burden on the general fund.

Before deciding on a proposed budget, Dufour said the spending plan contained funding for the assistant clerk positions, small raises for city police officers, the first year of a fire truck lease, a new expenditure of $19,000 in funding to cover the city’s salt and sand pile and $2,000 for repairs to the bulkhead decking at Granite City Park, which would be a $72,000 job if done in full.

Dufour said some discrepancies will be ironed out before the council’s next meeting on Aug. 12.

“We will, prior to the next council meeting, ensure that all of the numbers (are correct),” Dufour said.

Hubbard Free Libary Board of Trustees Vice President Caleb Gannon addresses the Hallowell City Council Monday at City Hall. Kennebec Journal photo by Sam Shepherd

The bulk of public comment during the hearing centered on funding for the library, which is slated at $42,000 instead of the $60,000 requested by library officials. A number of citizens worn stickers that read “Support the Hubbard Library.”

Four of five citizens that spoke, two formally with the library and two not, asked the council to fund the requested $60,000. Ahead of the public hearing, Dufour said the council was presenting a budget with $42,000 in funding, which is $15,000 less than last year’s contribution but $15,000 more than two years ago.

The budget contains $5,000 for a consultant for the library, but that would be drawn from TIF funds.

Back in April, the library asked for $74,000 from the city in fiscal year 2020 while it was staring down a $12,000 shortfall in the current fiscal year but amended their request when the deficit was lowered through “creative thinking,” according to library Board of Trustee’s President Ken Young.

A sticker worn by supporters of the Hubbard Free Library on Monday. Kennebec Journal photo by Sam Shepherd

The library is strapped for cash and facing a $2,500 operating deficit this year, which could be due to a lack of donations. Last year, the library raised $33,800 from 250 donors. This year, the library has raised $30,700 from about 220 donors.

Hubbard Board of Trustees Vice President Caleb Gannon, who has two children, said during the public hearing that it would be “devastating” if the library had to reduce its hours because of its financial problems.

“It would be devastating for our family if we weren’t able to go to the Hubbard,” he said. “We just don’t want to see that happen.”

Resident Anthony Ronzio said the extra funding would help the library maintain momentum and signal to Hallowell citizens that the city supports the library and could spur donors to increase their donation.

The city allocated $15,000 in TIF funds last year for strategic planning to determine the best way forward for the library. Young said in June that the effort revealed Hallowell residents wanted more from the library.

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