Eastport approves city budget with no tax increase

Posted July 13, 2011, at 8:09 p.m.

EASTPORT, Maine — The City Council adopted the 2011-12 city budget Monday night and City Manager Jon Southern said the mill rate may drop slightly.

“This is not a steak dinner,” Southern said of the budget. “This is a plate of potatoes.”

The $2.68 million municipal budget is expected to be offset with revenues expected at $1.8 million. Southern said the school budget came in flat with no increase and “We are very appreciative of that.”

Southern said no positions were cut, but “we are operating pretty thinly staffed.” He said one of the problem areas is health insurance.

“We’ve had a 20 percent increase in the last two years,” he said. “For some employees, their health insurance package is now more than their salary. It is the same problem businesses have been suffering from.”

Another area of concern is the county budget. “We had a $20,000 increase this year with little or no explanation,” he said. County Manager Betsy Fitzgerald attended Monday night’s meeting, but the city councilors want to hear from the commissioners. The commissioners have been invited to attend and defend their budget at the council’s next meeting scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, Aug.10.

“The county budget has continued to rise each year with no increase in services,” Southern said.

Southern said there will be no increase in taxation but he still is “strongly opposed” to the budget. “I always cringe at taxation,” he said. He said Eastport’s mill rate is likely to be $21.78 per $1,000 of valuation, which is down from $21.80 in the current year.

“But for here, that is high,” he said. “Compare that with southern towns and cities that are enjoying a vast array of services.”

Southern said he was particularly disappointed that the county would not provide help in policing Eastport during the city’s recent Fourth of July celebration.

“This event benefits the whole county with the number of tourists it brings in,” Southern said.

In seeking solutions to lowering expenses, Southern said he is looking at boosting the consolidation of services with surrounding communities. “We are doing a lot more now than in past years,” Southern said. “We have done some very positive work, but we have a long way to go.”

Southern said the city is going to have to become very innovative. “This is a risky budget because it relies on some economic development in the pipeline. There is no wiggle room here.”

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