City councilors finishing up Calais budget

By Sharon Kiley Mack, BDN Staff
Posted May 31, 2010, at 9:51 p.m.

CALAIS, Maine — City councilors have nearly completed their budget preparations for the 2011 fiscal year and have scheduled their final budget workshop for June 10 after the regular council meeting.

As proposed so far, the municipal budget has been decreased by $184,572, excluding the school and county payments.

City Manager Diane Barnes said the decrease is necessary to offset $263,625 in revenue losses.

“Because of massive cuts in revenue, the council was forced to make budget cuts, and those were going to affect staff and services,” she said. “The first place they looked was duplication of services.”

Barnes said a major change is the elimination of local police and fire dispatching services, which will go into effect on July 1.

All 911 calls already are handled by the Washington County Regional Communications Center based in Machias, but after July 1, no dispatcher will be in Calais for day-to-day calls, and all calls for assistance will be rerouted to the regional center.

Barnes said the move is expected to save the city $125,000 and will require hiring an additional full-time police officer.

Barnes said making some of the cuts was difficult for the council.

“We were down $160,000 in state revenue, $75,000 in local excise tax, and lost $11,000 in tree growth funding,” Barnes said.

She said the council wanted to keep the mill rate level at or below the current rate of $24.70 per $1,000 valuation.

Taxpayers likely will see an increase in their taxes despite the cuts.

Barnes said a study of the city’s property values revealed that many properties were being sold for far more than they were assessed. Before the tax bills go out this year, all residential property values will be adjusted to reflect this. Barnes said the new values — an across-the-board percentage increase — will be based on each home’s square footage.

In addition, the state’s Homestead Exemption has decreased from $13,000 to $10,000 for qualifying residents.

The total proposed budget for next year is $3,273,025. Last year’s budget was $3,457,597.

Barnes reported that other cuts to the budget included:

• Elimination of part-time library staff, and changing the children’s librarian’s hours to 30 a week. Estimated savings: $7,450.

• Elimination of a part-time position in Calais Public Works. Estimated savings: $14,466.

• Changing the structure of the nonunion health insurance plan. Estimated savings: $18,000.

• Reducing assessing department part-time wages. Estimated savings: $3,818.

• Reducing recreation department part-time wages. Estimated savings: $4,000.

• No longer using salt on downtown sidewalks. Estimated savings: $1,400.

• Elimination of the extra local share of $70,000 to the school trustees account.

The final budget meeting will be held Thursday, June 10, after the conclusion of the City Council’s regularly scheduled 6 p.m. meeting at City Hall.

http://bangordailynews.com/2010/05/31/news/city-councilors-finishing-up-calais-budget/ printed on December 17, 2014