AUGUSTA — Augusta taxpayers are likely to see an approximately 3.9% increase in their property tax bills, based upon the proposed budget totaling nearly $87 million that city officials are wrapping up now.

New positions in the budget include hiring a deputy director for Lithgow Library, in part to help oversee the library which has seen a growing number of people who are homeless spending time there during the day.

But city councilors opted to cut a proposed new deputy fire chief position that was part of the budget submitted by former City Manager Susan Robertson in April, and would have been partially funded by grant funds initially.

When Robertson, who is currently serving as interim deputy city manager, submitted her initial budget proposal it was expected to result in a 0.8% property tax decrease. However since then the budget has changed and, according to Ward 3 Councilor Michael Michaud, some miscalculations in that initial budget have been fixed.

Together the changes are now expected to result in a property tax increase of around 3.9%, based on discussions city councilors had at Tuesday’s budget session. That would mean a property tax bill increase of around $120 for the owner of the average $131,700 home in Augusta.

Councilors are expected to vote on the total budget at their May 16 business meeting, which will include an opportunity for public input. The Augusta schools’ portion of the budget would go to voters for a validation referendum June 11.


In more than four hours of budget discussions Tuesday, a majority of councilors indicated they would support restoring a deputy library director’s position that was cut at the city-owned Lithgow Library during the coronavirus pandemic, at a cost of about $128,000 a year.

Earl Kingsbury, community services director, said one reason the library needs more staff is currently there are not enough workers to monitor all areas of the library, such as its bathrooms and the historic portion of the building where staff are not regularly stationed. That’s become a growing concern in the last couple years as the library has had “some clientele” coming in now that haven’t been there as much in the past, requiring increased monitoring to ensure they use the library safely.

At-Large Councilor Stephanie Sienkiewicz said the mission of the library is to serve anybody who comes in, as long as they are being safe. She said to serve residents the city needs to increase staff at the library.

At-Large Councilor Courtney Gary-Allen said she was struggling with the idea of the library serving as a social service agency for people who are unhoused.

“If the city doesn’t want people who are unhoused at the library then they need somewhere to be during the day. And at night would be great too,” Gary-Allen said. “But I’m struggling with trying to connect this position with addressing the housing crisis. I can’t support this position at this time.”

Mayor Mark O’Brien, in a proposed compromise, suggested the city put the deputy library director position back in the budget but not fill it until January, thus saving about a half-year’s worth of that expense.


Despite lengthy debate, councilors did not cut the school budget, with a slim majority indicating they want to leave it as proposed by the Augusta Board of Education.

A majority of councilors wanted to cut a proposed new deputy fire chief’s position, which would be funded by a combination of $58,000 in the budget and $76,500 in federal grant funds.

Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Judkins was among the elected officials who said they didn’t want to add the position that relies so heavily on grant funding, only to have to perhaps cut the position when grant funds are no longer available.

Councilors considered funding for a mental health or social worker to work alongside police, especially in Augusta’s downtown, to help people in crisis on the city’s streets. However those new positions are not included in the budget. City Manager Jared Mills said they could be funded with some of the city’s share of the opioid lawsuit settlement, which, he said, currently is about $532,000. Hiring those workers would be an expense that qualifies for the use of those funds, he said, which could be approved outside of the general budget process.

Augusta officials still don’t know what the city’s share of the Kennebec County budget will be; it has not yet been approved by county officials, following several heated discussions on cutting the county budget, As initially proposed by the budget committee it would have meant a 44% increase in the tax impact. County officials are still working on potentially trimming the budget and lessening its tax impact, but a final version has not yet been approved.

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