ROCKLAND, Maine — How many hours the Rockland Public Library should be open was the chief topic of debate Monday night when the council gave final approval to a budget that will retain services while hiking property taxes.
The council voted 3-2 to add $4,494 to the library budget to maintain Monday evening hours at the library.
Councilor Elizabeth Dickerson urged other councilors to support the amount. She said the library is the heartbeat of the community and should be a priority for the council.
Councilor Larry Pritchett said even with reduced hours (61 to 57 hours per week), Rockland’s library would be open more hours than any other in the state. He said the city has overextended itself on some services while not being able to maintain the facilities.
Dickerson said Rockland should not be comparing itself to other communities but other communities should compare themselves to Rockland which she said sets the standards for libraries.
Councilor Eric Hebert said he supported retaining the Monday evening hours, noting Rockland has a university in its community.
Mayor Brian Harden joined Dickerson and Hebert in supporting adding the money into the budget while Councilor William Clayton voted with Pritchett to reduce the hours as recommended by City Manager James Smith.
The overall municipal budget approved by the council was $10.4 million, an increase of about 4 percent ($425,000) from the approved 2011-2012 budget.
Finance Director Tom Luttrell said the projected tax rate for Rockland will rise by 65 cents per $1,000 of assessed property ($18.78 to $19.43). A property assessed at $167,000 will pay an additional $108 in property taxes ($3,136 to $3,244). The increase is due both to the higher city budget as well as an increased Regional School Unit 13 budget.
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.