Rockland council gives initial approval to $10.4 million city budget, reduced library hours

James Smith (left), Rockland's city manager, and Mayor Brian Harden (right) are shown with other Rockland councilors in March.
Stephen Betts
James Smith (left), Rockland's city manager, and Mayor Brian Harden (right) are shown with other Rockland councilors in March. Buy Photo
Posted June 04, 2012, at 10:23 p.m.

ROCKLAND, Maine — City councilors gave unanimous preliminary approval Monday night to a 2012-2013 municipal budget that increases spending by 4 percent.

The proposed budget will reduce library hours from 67 to 61 hours per week, which will result in the library being closed on Monday nights.

The council rejected on a 3-2 vote a proposal to donate $2,000 to the Pen Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Councilor William Clayton urged support for the expenditure, saying the Chamber benefits the community.

Councilor Larry Pritchett said he could support some spending for the Chamber on a specific program but not for a general contribution. Councilors Elizabeth Dickerson and Eric Hebert joined Pritchett in rejecting the request while Mayor Brian Harden voted for the $2,000.

The Chamber had requested $3,500.

The only other change to the municipal budget was adding $1,130 for the youth-oriented Trekkers programs.

In the library debate, Dickerson voiced support for adding $4,400 to the budget to keep the current library schedule.

Pritchett said his review of other libraries’ hours across the state, both in more populated and less populated communities, shows few communities have more than 48 hours per week. Dickerson disagreed, saying Lewiston, Bangor and Camden have more than 48 hours per week.

The overall municipal budget is $10.4 million. City Manager James Smith unveiled his proposal in April and no changes have been made to it other than what was done Monday night.

The $10.4 million is an increase of about 4 percent ($421,000) from the approved 2011-2012 budget.

The city estimates the property tax rate will jump from $18.78 to $19.43 which takes into account the already approved Knox County budget and the proposed Regional School Unit 13 budget. The increased city budget and the increased school budget means a homeowner with property assessed at $167,000 will pay an additional $108 in taxes later this year ($3,136 to $3,244).

The budget includes $134,433 in contingencies which would cover any raises approved for employees. The city still is negotiating labor contracts with its employees.

The largest account in the proposed municipal budget is the Police Department at $1.99 million, which is up 4 percent. The Public Works Department budget is proposed at $1.65 million, up 4.6 percent. The Fire Department budget is proposed at $1.5 million, up 4.3 percent. The debt repayment budget is proposed at $988,151, up 6 percent. Lights and hydrants are proposed at $601,000, up 1.3 percent. The library is proposed at $592,000, down 1.5 percent. The Recreation Department is proposed at $380,000, up 1.5 percent.

Increases include the $55,663 in added debt payments, $48,000 more for employee health insurance, $48,000 more for employee retirement system contributions, $25,000 more in general assistance, and $20,000 more for fuel.

The city also projects it will lose $89,000 in state aid.

The budget calls for using $300,000 in surplus to offset some of the higher expenses and reduced state aid.

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