AUGUSTA — City councilors Thursday narrowly approved an $86.7 million budget expected to raise property taxes by 3.7%, voting 4-3 in favor of the proposed city, school and county budget.

Opposition came from councilors who said another tax increase was too much for some residents to bear, as well as councilors who said the budget doesn’t include funding to address concerns expressed by merchants who’ve sought the city’s help in dealing with troublemakers downtown.

The budget would increase taxes by 3.7%, which officials said would mean a $111 tax increase for a home with the average assessed value in Augusta, which is $131,700.

Ward 3 Councilor Mike Michaud, who voted against the budget, said that’s too much, especially coming on the heels of two previous years of tax increases.

“This will mark a 13.1% increase in our taxes in the last three years,” Michaud said. “I just don’t know how much longer a lot of these folks in this community can keep absorbing these tax increases. I know we have to have our roads plowed, have to have our fires put out, have to have our police protection and our schools, all are equally important. And we also have to live within our means. Because quite a lot of people in this city are living on fixed incomes and if you’re living on Social Security, I don’t think that’s gone up 13.1% in the last three years.”

Michaud said funds could have been cut from the school budget that would have saved a quarter-percent of the tax increase, but other councilors declined to take those cuts.


At-Large Councilor Abigail St. Valle voted against the budget because, she said, it doesn’t include funding to address concerns that residents have brought to councilors in the past year, particularly downtown merchants who have said a small but growing number of aggressive transient people have been harassing people and making them feel unsafe.

“The downtown community has come to us multiple times over the past year, to let us know we are struggling, and this budget does not speak to that,” St. Valle said.

Her husband, Storme St. Valle, spoke in the public comment portion of Thursday’s council meeting in favor of the city funding a case manager to work with police and help address problems of people who are homeless, connecting them with services before they cause harm to themselves or others.

Mayor Mark O’Brien said the city is considering adding a social worker or mental health caseworker position to help with those problems, but using money the city expects to receive in a settlement with opioid manufacturers, not from the annual budget.

At-Large Councilor StephanieSienkiewicz , one of the four votes in favor of the budget, said school board members told councilors any cuts to their budget would negatively impact the quality of education. She said saving a quarter-percent of the tax increase was not worth it.

Sienkiewicz said the $111 tax increase for the owner of an average Augusta home “equates to a little less than $10 a month.”


“I understand that $10 means different things to different people, and I do not take this vote lightly,” she said. “However I think that $10 extra a month is translated to excellent emergency services by our first responders, schools, economic development and the many, many other things we receive for living in the city of Augusta.”

Councilors Thursday adopted the below-estimated figures for Augusta’s share of the recently approved Kennebec County budget, which brought the property tax decrease in Augusta down from 3.9% to 3.7%.

The $23.3 million county budget asks for an increase of 28% from taxpayers, down from the initial budget proposal, which had a 44% projected tax increase.

The school budget is slated to go to voters in a referendum vote June 11.

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