HALLOWELL — The Hallowell City Council approved a 3.34% increase in spending Monday evening, finalizing a budget process hampered by the coronavirus pandemic.

The budget was approved unanimously, pending the signing of an order, at a special meeting via the Zoom videoconferening platform.

The increase will likely mean a slight increase to the city’s property tax rate.

The spending plan totals $6,506,204, the same amount that was discussed earlier this month and an increase to the $6,296,018 budgeted in the previous fiscal year.

That approved spending plan is a stark decrease from the $6,788,855 in an initial draft.

The city’s property tax rate is expected to increase to $21.50 per $1,000 of assessed value, according to documents from the Aug. 10 City Council meeting.

Last fiscal year’s tax rate was $21.30 per $1,000 of assessed value. The increase would mean the tax bill for a property assessed at $184,000 would increase about $37.

Councilor Maureen AuCoin said the budget was not ideal because it required an increase to the property tax rate. In previous years, she said, the budgeting process involved ironing out discrepancies. Now, city officials are on the same page with budget procedures.

“I’m going to make a commitment to work really hard to make sure our taxes don’t keep rising, year after year after year,” AuCoin said. “We are at a point where all of the (city officials) are talking the same language, and I have faith in the calculations we’re presenting tonight.”

Councilor Kate DuFour said the city’s Finance Committee, made up of Councilor George Lapointe, Aucoin and herself, rallied to handle “an incredibly hard budget year.”

“Everybody deserves unbelievable credit,” DuFour said. “We have a really good budget because everybody did what municipal government does: You roll up your sleeves and get the job done.”

Key items in the expenditure budget include:

• $3,211,817 for the city’s share of the Regional School Unit 2 budget, a 4.88% increase from last fiscal year.

• $311,076 in payments related to tax increment financing agreements, a 23.93% increase.

• $277,099 in county taxes, a 3.95% increase.

• $111,060 in capital improvement spending, a 18.34% decrease from last fiscal year.

A late change was briefly discussed related to the purchase of a ballot box for City Hall, but was not added to the budget after Lapointe said the money could be taken from funding related to COVID-19 expenditures.

The city is expecting $1,181,248 in municipal revenue, an increase to last year’s budgeted municipal revenue of $1,006,315. Despite the net increase, a number of budgetary items are decreasing. Excise taxes, for example, are expected to decrease by 15%, from $425,000 to $361,250.

The budget has gone through many changes since it being unveiled in May. In June, councilors said the budget would have to wait until at least July, due to uncertainty with state revenues.

State Treasurer Henry Beck wrote in an op-ed in March that “municipalities should begin planning for a decrease in revenue sharing receipts immediately” due to the coronavirus pandemic.

State payments to the city are projected to increase 8.24%, despite a $33,000 drop, or 15%, in state revenue sharing.

General assistance reimbursements are expected to more than double, from $3,000 in the last fiscal year to $11,200. Homestead exemptions are seeing a large increase, too, from $116,883 in the last fiscal year to $175,069.

That projected revenue increase in spurred by $178,990 in total TIF expenditures, $100,000 in a separate TIF expenditures and $50,000 in funds carried forward from the previous fiscal year.

Taxes are due Sept. 15 and March 1, 2021, with 8% interest on delinquent taxes.

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