Ellsworth holds line on spending

Posted June 12, 2009, at 1:01 a.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 12:06 p.m.

ELLSWORTH, Maine — The city will keep a tight hold on the municipal purse strings in the coming year if councilors adopt the 2010 budget as proposed.

Councilors will review and vote on the budget during the regular council meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. Monday, June 15, at the City Hall council chambers.

The municipal budget of $9,122,570 represents an increase of $106,598 or 1.182 percent increase over the current year’s budget despite hefty reductions in state revenues and excise tax. Combined with a decrease in the school budget, taxpayers will see a slight decrease in the tax rate next year.

“We’re very pleased with this budget,” said City Manager Michelle Beal.

The budget anticipates a reduction in state revenues of about $200,000. Revenue from excise taxes dropped by about $500,000 this year, according to Finance Director Tammy Mote, and it is expected to drop another $100,000 to $1.2 million next year.

Faced with those revenue shortfalls, Mote said, city officials directed department heads to hold the line on their budgets.

“That meant no new staffing and no new projects,” Beal said Thursday. “We’re just maintaining services. They really came through.”

Careful budgeting plus continued construction in the city helped to offset those revenue losses, Beal said.

“We still have growth in the city,” she said. “It’s not the boom we were planning on, but we still have growth. We’ve adjusted our spending to the amount of growth instead of to the boom.”

The city also paid off some debt on the City Hall reconstruction project, which reduced spending by $260,000.

One area of the budget, the capital improvement program, was increased in the proposal. In an effort to keep up with increasing costs for road improvements, the councilors added $150,000 to that account during budget workshops earlier this year.

Beal said the budget also held the line on appropriations for social service agencies and other outside requests for funding.

Other than regular increases in salaries and benefits, there are no new items in the budget, she said.

The assessment from the new Regional School Unit 24 for education will be $7,795,305. According to Beal, that includes about $800,000 from the fund balance to reduce the amount to be raised from taxes. It also includes an additional $500,000 appropriation that will be applied to the 2011 education assessment.

“They’re expecting a spike next year,” Mote said.

The $500,000 appropriation will ease the impact of any budget increases next year, she said.

Combined, the budgets will require that $14,078,612 be raised through taxes. That will result in a slight decrease in the tax rate, dropping it from 13.35 mills to 13.34 mills. The impact on a $200,000 property will be a decrease of $2 in the tax bill.

“The taxes on a $200,000 home … this year is $2,670; next year taxes will be $2,668,” Beal said. “That’s just a little less, but better less than more.”

rhewitt@bangordailynews.net

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