AUGUSTA — The Augusta City Council on Tuesday approved a revised $67 million city and school budget, expected to result in a slight tax decrease for property owners.

Councilors voted unanimously to make a few revisions to the budget.

The budget includes plans for several furlough days on which most city services will be closed and employees will not be paid. Councilors said the plans for furlough days could be altered if the city’s coronavirus-impacted financial picture improves.

The budget includes seven furlough days, down from eight as proposed in City Manager William Bridgeo’s initial budget, with each day expected to save about $27,000. Only the city’s uniformed public safety workers are expected to work — and be paid — those days.

Councilors said they supported taking another look later this year at the need for furlough days, perhaps in August. If the city’s financial picture brightens, furlough days could be eliminated.

Bridgeo noted that due to an increase in the state homestead exemption, homeowners enrolled in that program will receive a $104 decrease in their city property tax bills. The exemption is not available to businesses or properties that are not the primary residence of the taxpayer.

The budget is expected to result in a slight decrease in the tax rate, from $20.97 to $20.94 per $1,000 of assessed value.

With approval of changes to the budget, the tax bill for the owner of the average single family home assessed at $127,400 in Augusta is expected to be about $2,200, about $4 less than this year.

Like officials throughout Maine, Augusta’s city and school leaders have said it has been hard to budget during a pandemic when the financial impact of it is still being determined.

The coronavirus pandemic has caused state revenues to plummet and increased public safety and other expenses. City officials said they worry some residents impacted by the pandemic may find it difficult to pay their property taxes.

“We’re going to weather this,” Mayor David Rollins said last week, when councilors gave preliminary approval to the budget, also in a unanimous vote. “I think it’s responsible and correct for us to hold the line on taxation. We’ll see in the next few months what the future holds. Maybe we’ll have to sharpen the pencil again, or maybe we’ll be able to loosen things up a bit.”

Councilors voted on amendments to the budget Tuesday because the budget they approved last week was mistakenly the budget as first proposed by Bridgeo. Councilors and administrators had made changes to the budget since it was first proposed. Those changes were not reflected in the budget approved last Thursday night, so Tuesday’s vote was scheduled to adopt the revised budget.

Bridgeo said it was his mistake to not ensure councilors voted to add the changes last week when they first approved the budget.

The brief special meeting Tuesday to vote on the combined city and school budget was called to finalize the school budget total, so that validation referendum ballot could be included in the more than 1,000 absentee ballots requested by residents the city hopes to begin sending out Wednesday.

The election and school budget vote is scheduled for July 14.

“Now we can mail absentee ballots,” Ralph St. Pierre, finance director and assistant city manager, said after Tuesday’s vote.

Changes to the budget since it was first drafted include a:

• $36,000 reduction, to $1.77 million, in Augusta’s share of the Kennebec County budget.

• $60,000 increase to add a third code enforcement officer back to the budget.

• $62,000 increase to add funding for a vacant clerk’s position at City Hall so the position can be filled.

$465,000 cut to education spending. City councilors in May asked school officials to cut that amount from proposed spending to help eliminate the need for a tax hike.

The changes also included the use of an additional $58,000 from the city’s fund balance, up from $1.7 million, and a $51,000 increase in projected revenues from building permit and other development fees.

School Board Chairman Ed Hastings and Superintendent James Anastasio said in May they understood the situation and would look to make cuts to proposed schoo budget, which was drafted before the coronavirus became a global pandemic.

The cuts, school officials said, would not have a major impact on services to students, but would have to be approved by the school board. The board has yet to meet to adjust the budget.

In Augusta, the city council has the final say on total spending, but the school board determines the details of the school budget.

The budget cuts the assistant director’s position at Lithgow Public Library and would not fund some vacant city jobs and follows dozens of mid-year city employee layoffs officials made in April and May.

Those cuts were due to the coronavirus pandemic, which caused the temporary closure of certain city operations, such as the Augusta Civic Center and Lithgow Public Library. Some of those employees are expected to be reemployed as part of plans to reopen city services.

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