AUGUSTA — City councilors unanimously approved a $69.4 million city and school budget Thursday night that is expected to leave Augusta’s property tax rate unchanged.

Proposed spending in the budget is up by $2.3 million — or 3.5% — but the tax rate is not expected to change due to projected increases in revenues, the use of reserve funds and a small increase in the city’s overall taxable property valuation due to new development.

City Manager William Bridgeo said the tax rate is expected to remain at $20.94 per $1,000 of assessed property value.

No city councilors or members of the public commented on the budget at Thursday’s night’s City Council meeting, which was held virtually via Zoom.

The budget, following a series of City Council meetings to discuss modifying it, is about $100,000 more than the spending plan proposed by Bridgeo in April.

The biggest change to the budget is the addition of $99,000 in salary and benefits to restore the position of Welfare Bureau director. That position was cut during the recession of 2008-09, and responsibility for that bureau was added to the duties asked of the director of community services.

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

Other changes since the budget was first proposed included 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 on electricity for street lights.

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

The school budget must still go to voters in a citywide school budget validation vote June 15, while the city portion of the budget does not go to voters for approval.

The budget restores some of the 32 municipal positions cut in last year’s budget, including a deputy human resources director, the new position of marketing and community relations director, a code enforcement officer and a police officer. It does not include employee furlough days, which were part of last year’s budget, although 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 over the past year because several significant revenue sources exceeded expectations.

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