Old Town leaders approve 1.1 percent budget increase

Posted June 27, 2011, at 11:16 p.m.

OLD TOWN, Maine — One firefighter, one librarian and one public works heavy equipment operator will be chopped under the new 2011-12 city budget approved Monday night, and four other city positions will change from full time to part time.

It sounds bad, but it’s better than what City Council members were considering earlier to reduce the budget and keep the property tax rate around $18.

“That takes us down to a 1.1 percent increase,” council Chairman David Mahan said.

The city’s budget for next year is $8,416,175, and the $17.80 property tax rate is expected to increase by about 20 cents, he said.

Councilors got to the $8.4 million figure by deciding Monday night to use $400,000 in payments from the operations of the Juniper Ridge landfill to offset the budget, a move requested by members of the public at the beginning of the meeting.

The decision to move the landfill funds, which initially were placed in an economic development account, caused the standing-room-only crowd gathered at the meeting to break into applause.

The landfill funds also will be used to pay for operating the pool, Mahan said.

The $8.4 million municipal budget, plus $587,664 in Penobscot County taxes and $5,311,120 for the school budget, creates a $14.3 million total budget. With revenues that total $4.9 million, the net property tax amount residents will pay out of pocket is $9,001,918.

At the beginning of the meeting, the Town Council was considering cutting two public safety personnel, one firefighter and one police officer, but Old Town Public Safety Director Don O’Halloran, who is the police chief, presented concessions that cut an expected $70,000 to $75,000 from the budget and eliminate the need to cut a police officer.

City leaders cut around $70,000 from the budget by reducing library staff by two full-time positions and adding a part-time person.

“There are two retirements coming up and we are going to replace one of those with a part-time person,” Mahan said.

In addition to eliminating one heavy equipment operator in the Public Works Department, two full-time custodians and the airport operator were made part-time, which created a savings of around $161,000.

Town leaders also saved funds by eliminating a 3 percent raise for non-union employees.

“It’s just my opinion that if we’re going to be cutting five or Six positions, I don’t think it’s responsible to be giving a 3 percent raise,” Councilor Scott LaFlamme said.

Councilor Alan Stormann was the lone councilor to vote against the budget.

“I think we’re doing too much too fast and I think we’re cutting some important positions,” he said after the meeting.

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