Rockland budget will not add to tax hike

Posted May 09, 2013, at 7:55 p.m.

ROCKLAND, Maine — City Manager James Smith presented his 2013-2014 budget, which represents no increase, to city councilors on Thursday night.

The $10,647,576 proposal eliminates a maintenance position at the Recreation Department and cuts a vacant Police Department secretary position. Savings are also realized by changes in the labor union contracts that shift more health insurance costs to employees.

“Unfortunately, the economic pressures we have been experiencing in recent years continue as property values decline and our operating costs continue to climb with pressure from inflation,” Smith told councilors.

The manager pointed out that he is basing his budget on the city receiving a similar level of state revenue sharing.

“If Augusta breaks its historical commitments to the city of Rockland, we will be forced to implement curtailments, supplemental appropriations or a combination of the two in order to rebalance the budget,” Smith said.

Earlier in the year, Smith had asked department heads to show him potential budgets with 10 percent decreases, based on the possibility of eliminating state revenue sharing. The city budgeted $729,000 in state revenue sharing for 2012-2013.

Mayor William Clayton pointed out that city taxpayers are facing a tax increase because of outside forces such as schools and the county but that the council can do its part by not increasing the municipal budget.

“We’re the last line of defense for no tax increase,” Clayton said.

The city manager projects that with the added school costs, the property tax rate will rise 2 percent. The projected tax rate for the upcoming year is $19.82, up 40 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. A person owning a home assessed at $150,000 will pay an additional $60.

The 2012-2013 budget was also $10.6 million.

The manager’s proposal also calls for using $139,601 less in surplus to balance the budget, delaying the purchase of a new police cruiser and holding off on funding the Fire Department building reserve account. The plan also calls for slight increases in code and recreation fees.

The budget outlined some long-term concepts but does not allocate any money for them, such as relocating City Hall to the downtown, establishing a joint fire and police station, and considering a regional Recreation Department.

Rockland City Hall was moved to Pleasant Street near the Thomaston town line in March 1996 after previously being located at the downtown train station on Union and Pleasant streets. The Police and Fire departments shared cramped quarters at what is now solely the fire station until August 2004 when police relocated to the former Courier-Gazette building on Park Drive.

The City Council will begin reviewing the budget and final adoption of it is expected in June.

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