June 19, 2018
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Belfast council votes on resolution condemning proposed state budget

By Abigail Curtis, BDN Staff

BELFAST, Maine — City councilors unanimously decided this week in favor of a strongly worded resolution that details the financial hit the city will take if Gov. Paul LePage’s proposed biennial budget, which suspends municipal revenue sharing, is passed.

The proposed $6.3 billion 2014-15 budget also would cap state aid for general assistance and eliminate state property tax relief programs for Mainers who aren’t elderly or veterans.

Belfast would lose between $653,500 and $882,472 in municipal revenue sharing funds and the local RSU 20 school district would pay an additional $450,720 to fund teacher retirement, according to the resolution, which passed during Tuesday night’s regular city council meeting.

“This City Council will be faced with the unacceptable choice of either severely cutting municipal services or dramatically increasing property taxes,” the resolution stated. “We will once again be compelled either to eliminate classes and other programs in our schools or find local funds to compensate for lessening state financial support for public education.”

The council called upon LePage and state lawmakers to fully fund municipal revenue sharing, to maintain the Circuit Breaker and Homestead Exemption property tax relief programs, and to fulfill the state’s K-12 education funding mandate under the School Financial Act of 2003.

“We need to make it as firm as possible,” Councilor Eric Sanders said Tuesday during discussion of the resolution. “If we’re not crystal-clear in our displeasure at this decision, they will pass this.”

The resolution concluded with a challenge to state government.

“And be it further resolved by the City Council of the city of Belfast that, the state of Maine should cut its own programs and services and/or raise additional revenue, before it takes revenue from the municipalities and schools,” it stated.

Adrienne Bennett, the governor’s spokeswoman, has told the BDN that LePage has presented a balanced budget proposal and wants to hear other ideas that would lead to a more efficient and effective delivery of government services.

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