AUGUSTA — A proposed $69.4 million city and school budget that would result in no changes to the tax rate is up for approval by city councilors Thursday.

The spending plan is proposed to increase by $2.3 million — or 3.5% — over the current year’s budget, but due to projected increases in revenues, the use of reserve funds, and a small gain in the city’s total property valuation, the tax rate is expected to remain at $20.94 per $1,000 of property value.

The budget, following a series of city council meetings to discuss and consider modifying it, is about $100,000 higher than that proposed by City Manager William Bridgeo in April.

The biggest change is the addition of $99,000 in salary and benefits to restore the position of welfare bureau director to the budget. That position was cut during the recession of 2008-2009 and responsibility for that bureau was added to the director of community services’ duties.

City councilors and Leif Dahlin, the city’s recently retired director of community services, however, expressed concern bureau staff may not now be able to handle the growing demands on the Health and Welfare Bureau.

“This proposed action will be of immense help overall and to the new acting director of community services,” Dahlin said in a memo to Bridgeo. “One less hat of many he will not have to wear.”

Other changes since the budget was first proposed include the addition of $25,000 to fund the search for a new city manager due to Bridgeo’s pending retirement, $25,000 to revamp the city’s website, $10,000 for additional staff  training in information technology, a $96,000 increase in projected revenues from state revenue sharing, and a $65,000 reduction in spending electricity for street lights.

Bridgeo said Tuesday that other than those changes, “not much” has been changed in the budget since it was proposed in April.

Councilors reviewed the school budget in April. That budget, as approved by the school board in early March, is up by 0.3%.

If councilors approve the overall budget at their 7 p.m. meeting Thursday, the city budget will be final. But the school budget must still go to voters in a citywide school budget validation vote on June 15.

For the average residential homeowner in Augusta, the budget as proposed would result in a tax bill of $2,190.

The budget restores some of the 32 city positions cut in last year’s budget, including a deputy human resources director, the new position of marketing and community relations director, and a code enforcement officer and police officer. It does not include any employee furlough days, which were part of last year’s budget, though most of them were not implemented.

The budget also taps into the city’s undesignated fund balance, a reserve account generally made up of funds unspent from previous budgets. Bridgeo said that account has grown during the past year due to a number of significant revenue sources exceeding expectations.

The budget would use $2.2 million from that fund, which Bridgeo said, in April, would leave about $5.8 million. The City Charter requires a fund balance of at least 5% of the total budget be kept on hand, and recommends at least 8.3% of the total budget be kept in reserve. This proposed budget would meet the recommended percentage, but just barely, at 8.32%. The use of those funds reduces the amount of money required to come from taxpayers.

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