Houlton council votes to send $9M budget to public hearing

Posted Jan. 04, 2011, at 11:51 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 28, 2011, at 12:17 p.m.

HOULTON, Maine — In one of the quickest budget review meetings in recent memory, town councilors on Monday swiftly approved sending the tentative 2010-11 municipal budget to a public hearing.

That hearing on the proposed $9 million budget will be held Monday, Jan. 24.

Town Manager Doug Hazlett presented a draft of the fiscal forecast to the board of budget review last month. The board is charged with looking over the budget and making recommendations that are then passed on to the council.

The board held a number of meetings but made few changes to the budget, which is down slightly over last year.

During Monday’s meeting, councilors made only one change to the draft approved by the review board.

While the review board had increased funding for the Aroostook County Historical and Art Museum from $2,500 to $3,000, Councilor Sue Tortello suggested that the council cut it back to $2,500.

That was the amount Hazlett suggested in the initial budget proposal and the amount the museum has received in recent years.

Museum officials “didn’t ask for an increase in funds,” Tortello said Monday. “They only requested $2,500. I think it is reasonable to reduce it since we didn’t increase funding for any of our other groups.”

The other councilors agreed.

Councilors noted that most departments were able to maintain or reduce their budgets in order to keep the overall municipal budget as low as possible.

The town also realized cost savings in other areas.

Several years ago, the town created several tax increment financing districts in the municipality. Tagged as an economic development device, the tax increment financing program, or TIF, aims to enhance and entice investment in specific portions of town.

The TIF policies allow the town to capture tax revenue from investments in one TIF district in the municipality and use it to offset expenses in another. The town saw $145,200 in TIF revenues this year.

The town also eliminated a part-time position in the assessor’s office and saw a $23,015 reduction in insurance premiums.

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