Gardiner’s municipal budget for the upcoming year is expected to include funding to implement parts of the Downtown Master Plan. The plan aims to make the city’s downtown neighborhood an attractive and economically vibrant destination. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

GARDINER — City officials are proposing a $7.5 million municipal spending plan that’s nearly 4% higher than the approved spending in the current year’s budget, with the majority of the increase coming in wages and benefits.

“I will never bring you a budget that I believe needs to be cut,” City Manager Andrew Carlton said as he gave an overview to city officials at Wednesday’s City Council meeting. “We’ll do that work. I bring you a budget to run this city. And I think we’ve done that.”

Carlton said city staff worked to create a budget that meets the goals of preserving city services, maximizes the money the city has and minimizes impact on taxpayers.

Because the Gardiner-based school board has not yet finalized its budget, the total tax bill is not yet known. As proposed, the city’s spending plan would add 20 cents to the property tax rate, which is currently $22.20 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

For the city’s share, spending is proposed to increase by nearly $297,000 or about 4% to pay for the routine costs of running city government and to pay for wage and benefit increases, professional services like information technology, legal and public safety dispatching and higher insurance costs.

To pay for the spending, revenue will come from several sources like funds raised through fees and permits, Maine revenue sharing, the city’s fund balance and property taxes.


Denise Brown, the city’s finance director, said the higher interest rates being paid has increased what the city earns in interest revenue, and winding down a revolving loan program means the final repayments on the remaining loan will go to the city’s general fund.

Currently, city officials are proposing to use $500,000 in fund balance not designated for any other use to offset a higher increase in the property tax rate. At the end of the fiscal year 2022, the most recent year for which audited figures are available, the city had $2.6 million available.

Brown said auditors recommend having somewhere between 16% and 24% of the budget on hand in a fund balance to deal with unanticipated events and emergencies. At $2.6 million, the fund balance is 22% of the proposed spending plan.

To lessen the impact on taxpayers, city officials are proposing to spend $163,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds to pay for a new phone system, vehicles for the Police and Public Works departments, new furniture for the Fire Department and book drops for the Gardiner Public Library.

Before the proposed spending plan was finalized, the elected officials and the city manager met for a goal-setting session to review their accomplishments in the current year and to set their priorities for the upcoming spending plan.

At the top of the priority list is infrastructure — city facilities, streets and sidewalks, and storm water and wastewater systems — and it’s likely to be there for a number of years.


“We had a discussion about whether a municipality our size can take on some of these things,” Mayor Patricia Hart said.

Tied to that is building support for spending on infrastructure improvements and finding money to pay for them.

City officials have started the process of evaluating city facilities, hiring Port City Architecture to complete an assessment and make recommendations. That process is ongoing.

Two years ago, work got started on a $3.5 million project to make upgrades at the city’s sewer treatment plant, but that was only the first of two phases. The second phase could cost $2.5 million or more.

Hart said Carlton and John Cameron, the city’s public works director, are expected to present a plan for paving in the near future to address years of deferred maintenance.

In the nearer future, city officials are expected to take steps to implement the Downtown Master Plan that outlines goals for making the city’s downtown neighborhood an attractive and economically vibrant destination.

Carlton presented the spending plan to the City Council on Wednesday, but that’s only the start of the process. In the coming weeks, elected officials will hear detailed presentations on department budgets and the public will have a chance to weigh in before officials deliberate on spending requests.

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