Bangor’s officials committed to flat tax

Posted May 28, 2009, at 9:48 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — City councilors passed a resolve on Wednesday to direct municipal staff to create an amended 2010 fiscal year budget that would keep the city’s tax rate as close as possible to the current rate of $19.05.

On Thursday, City Manager Edward Barrett presented councilors with an outline of how he plans to do that.

The amended budget — which was widely supported by councilors — would trim $1.3 million from the initial budget of more than $80 million that was first presented to councilors in April. The cuts would be spread through various municipal departments and would eliminate five full-time city staff members, although none will have to be laid off.

The city manager’s amended proposal would keep cost of living and step salary increases for employees, an element some councilors wanted to remove.

“I’m exceptionally pleased,” said Councilor Richard Bronson, who wanted to explore a salary freeze. “It’s not the prescription I would have suggested, but it’s something I can support.”

Other councilors agreed that it would be hard to quibble with any specifics in Barrett’s budget proposal, given that the city manager did what he was instructed. When the first budget was presented last month, the tax rate would have risen from $19.05 to $19.60. If the city officially votes on what was presented this week, the tax rate would go down to $19.04.

“I would congratulate the entire staff, it looks like this represents a little pain for everyone,” said Councilor Richard Stone, who drafted the council resolve that was passed on Wednesday to keep the tax rate steady. “But, it’s important to note that next year’s budget is going to be much more difficult.”

Councilor David Nealley agreed that it wasn’t for him and his colleagues to nitpick and he shared the caution about the 2011 budget.

Barrett said the reduction of $1.3 million was not easy and tightened an already tight belt. However, the city did get a bit of break from the new property tax valuations, which are expected to add $400,000 in revenue.

Other areas that would be cut include: Bass Park, reserve accounts for city vehicles and buses, fire equipment reserves, some library funding and other adjustments in city departments.

Barrett cautioned councilors that revenues for 2010 are projections that need to be monitored throughout the year. He agreed that the 2011 budget will be a difficult challenge because Bangor will get even fewer state dollars.

With the amended proposal, Assistant City Manager Bob Farrar was let off the hook from having to approach the city’s bargaining unions about freezes. However, he acknowledged that the discussion almost certainly would take place before next year.

City councilors are expected to vote officially on the 2010 fiscal year budget in mid-June. Earlier this week, councilors approved the Bangor School Department’s $42 million budget, which will now go to a citizen referendum on June 9.

erussell@bangordailynews.net

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