GARDINER — Concerns about how Gardiner pays for road paving projects are among the topics emerging as officials begin discussing a proposed $6.5 million municipal budget that would represent a 5% increase to the current spending plan.

If approved, the budget would increase the property tax rate by 60 cents, bringing the rate to $22.30 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, or $2,230 per $100,000.

The budget document, presented publicly to elected officials for the first time at Wednesday night’s City Council meeting, is expected to undergo changes in the coming weeks, with councilors scheduled to discuss and debate the proposed plan before giving it final approval in June.

Acting City Manager Anne Davis flagged road paving for city councilors as a budgeting concern. In recent years, city officials approved a paving plan for the city that involved borrowing money by issuing bonds. All of that money has now been spent and the city has fallen away from that plan.

“We really have some choices,” David said. “We did put in some capital improvement money for paving, but we also recommended that money be bonded. I’m not a big fan of borrowing money to do regular operating budget things. I honestly think if you are paving every year, you need to budget for that every year.”

Davis said she strongly suggested city officials look at paving in a more realistic fashion, rather than reacting to annual paving needs.

To pay for spending, the city collects fees for services, such as those offered to partner communities for access to the Gardiner Public Library, and excise taxes on automobile registrations.

As presented, the budget reflects a $362,000, or 6.4%, increase in the operating budget, which includes both proposed increases in wages and some special projects.

At the same time, capital spending and overlay are expected to be down almost $90,000. City officials are also expecting to use $250,000 from the city’s fund balance and $100,000 from an expected lot sale in the Libby Hill Business Park to reduce what is expected to be raised through property taxes.

For a home valued at $146,900, the median value of a home in Gardiner, the increase means owners would pay an additional $88.69 on their annual property tax bill.

The proposed increase of 60 cents on the property tax rates reflects only anticipated municipal spending. The budget for the Gardiner-area school district — Maine School Administrative District 11 — and Kennebec County have not yet been completed, so it is too early to know what the overall property tax rate for Gardiner will be in the next budget year.

In presenting the proposed spending plan to elected officials, Davis said it includes some special projects, including setting aside money for a future revaluation, funds for security cameras in the city and mold remediation for the Gardiner Fire Department.

In the upcoming year, wages and benefits for city workers make up 56% of the budget, and wage increases account for half of the increase to the budget. In addition, several longtime employees are expected to retire, and that means paying for unused vacation and a share of their unused sick time.

“I would like the council to just begin thinking about some things,” Davis said.

Municipalities across the state also receive revenue sharing from the state of Maine, which has been reduced in recent years from the 5% promised in state statute. Although there have been efforts to restore it to that level, revenue sharing is expected to come in at about 3.75% in the upcoming budget year.

“The state has been failing us on that,” Davis said. “It’s just a push down to the local economy, and it’s not fair.”

She noted the increase in revenue from fees and permits has been driven by cannabis businesses that have sought to open in Gardiner in recent months.

City councilors are also expected to review budgets for the Gardiner Ambulance Service and  the city’s wastewater service. Both are enterprise funds, meaning their operations are funded by user fees.

Wednesday’s presentation was intended as an introduction, and city councilors and city residents will have opportunities to weigh in on the spending plan at upcoming meetings.

Before those meetings, District 1 City Councilor Terry Berry asked for a comparison between the city’s budget and the consumer price index to understand the impact of the budgets.

On May 5 and 12, the City Council is expected to discuss department budgets. On Wednesday, May 19, the council is expected to receive an updated budget and set public hearing dates, which are now tentatively scheduled for June 2 and June 16. The final vote on the budget is now scheduled for Wednesday, June 16.

The budget presentation has been posted on the city of Gardiner’s website — gardinermaine.com.

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