OLD TOWN, Maine — Councilors asked City Manager Bill Mayo to find an additional $80,000 to cut out of the fiscal year 2013 budget in order to bring the projected tax increase down to 2.5 percent.
A budget proposal presented on May 14 fell well short of the $600,000 the council was asked to cut, which would have made for a 4 percent tax increase.
Residents at Monday night’s public hearing on the budget weighed in on proposed cuts and some questioned the council’s priorities, arguing that the city of 7,700 residents can’t afford to pay for an airport, pool, library and other municipal facilities without burdening taxpayers.
Woodland Avenue resident Ty Sullivan said the town spent more than $1 million on improvements to Dewitt Field and the road that leads to it in 2010.
He argued that the city budgets $126,000 per year for an airport facility that brings in $45,000 annually.
“I don’t understand why we invest so much money in a losing proposition,” Sullivan said.
Councilor Alan Stormann, who serves as council representative to the airport committee, said the airport is continuing to grow and does need upgrades for safety and paving problems but it will prove to be an economic boon for the community.
Some residents and councilors, including Stormann, questioned whether the town should continue funding the municipal pool at a time when cuts to the police force and Fire Department are being proposed.
Councilor Stan Peterson said he wouldn’t want to see the pool go because it is an asset to the community and many residents and families enjoy using it.
One of the proposed cuts would eliminate a captain position and a communications position from the Police Department but would allow the force fill a vacant sergeant position.
Another proposed cut would eliminate one position from the city office, taking a person off the front desk, meaning an increased workload for staff and longer waiting times for residents.
Council Chairman Jamie Dufour said the city can’t continue to operate as it has in recent years. The town has dipped into reserve accounts to cover shortfalls in the past but they are now depleted, Dufour said.
“We have put off the hard decisions year after year and it’s costing us money,” he said.
The council will hold a second reading of the budget on June 28.