AUGUSTA — City councilors approved a $72.6 million city and school budget that will increase property taxes for the first time in five years.

The tax increase, which is about 4.7%, would add $125 to the tax bill for the owner of an average home in Augusta valued at $128,000, bringing it from $2,680 to $2,805.

The budget was approved in a 5-1 vote by councilors Thursday night.

Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Judkins said continuing to not increase taxes is “not sustainable, especially under the current economic circumstances.”

“A lot of the costs are things out of our control,” he added. “With inflation, the city experiences that too, just like your household budgets. We can’t operate this year like we have in the past. This is a good budget. I certainly would like to not have the increase but it is definitely something we have to do to maintain the vitality of our city.”

The $72.6 million budget approved by councilors was down from the $73.7 million budget first proposed by City Manager Susan Robertson, which would have required an 8.1% tax increase.


One of the biggest changes since the budget was first proposed was a $1 million reduction in funding for schools.

It is up to school board members to decide how to spend money within the budget, while the city council ultimately approves the total amount of school and city spending. The school board had already approved its first budget proposal when it was told to shave off $1 million.

Robertson said city councilors anticipated the school board would take more money out of its fund balance, an account made up of funds unspent in previous years, to cover the $1 million reduction request. Instead, school board members who met Tuesday made cuts to the school budget.

Changes made to reduce the city budget include planning to leave four vacant positions empty for the year instead of filling them — a police officer position, a part-time secretarial position in the Fort Western bureau, a part-time custodial position and the deputy director of human resources position.

Councilors also reduced funding for snow removal — which Robertson said had already been reduced in her initial budget proposal by $56,000 — by an additional $40,000.

Ward 3 Councilor Mike Michaud, the lone vote against the budget, said he couldn’t back it because he’d heard from many constituents who were already struggling with inflation and couldn’t afford even a small tax increase. He said he initially compromised from his stance of not supporting a tax increase of more than 2% and “sort of buckled a little bit” and agreed to a tax increase of up to 4%, but wouldn’t vote for a budget with an increase of any more than that.


“It ended up going to 4.7%, and I really drew a line in the sand with that,” Michaud said. “I think, perhaps, a little bit more could have been done. I know 0.7% doesn’t sound like a lot but at the end of the day, for some people it is.”

At-Large Councilor Heather Pouliot voted for the budget but said she did so “begrudgingly.” She and other councilors noted much of the increase is due to fixed costs, such as the price of fuel, which the city has no control over.

“Everything costs more now including our city being run,” she said. “And I think that we did our best to keep taxes low, and we will continue to do that in the future.”

About $500,000 in funding to hire and equip eight new firefighter/paramedics remains in the budget, a proposal meant to address a lack of staff and increasing number of calls.

The department would seek to hire four people in July and add four others in the second half of the fiscal year. The split approach would  limit the impact on the budget and also recognize that recruiting new rescue workers could be difficult because of the current labor market. Robertson said if all the positions can’t be filled due to a lack of applicants, the funding would remain in the city’s fund balance.

Councilors Thursday also approved a resolve increasing fees to use the city owned Hatch Hill landfill. The new fees are scheduled to go into effect July 5.

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