Brewer schedules meeting to adopt budget, set school referendum date

Posted June 26, 2013, at 3:50 p.m.
Karen Fussell
Brian Swartz
Karen Fussell

BREWER, Maine — City leaders waited until state legislators passed the biennial budget, which happened Wednesday with veto override votes in Augusta, and have scheduled a special City Council meeting Friday afternoon to approve the local budget using newly adjusted figures.

The wait allowed Finance Director Karen Fussell to make changes to the local combined budget, resulting in a 13-cent reduction in the projected property tax increase. The tax rate originally was expected to rise to $21.05 per $1,000 in property value and now is projected to be $20.92.

“We’re pleased that we waited and think it was a prudent thing to do,” Fussell said Wednesday.

The total combined draft budget is going up 0.9 percent, but residents still will pay more with increases in education costs of about 20.5 percent, and county taxes, which increased by 3.7 percent.

The special meeting of the City Council is scheduled for 3:45 p.m. Friday at Brewer City Hall. The combined city, school and municipal budgets are on the agenda, as is setting July 8 for the school budget validation referendum.

Gov. Paul LePage on Monday vetoed the compromise $6.3 billion two-year budget legislators approved on June 13, but state representatives and senators on Wednesday tallied enough votes to override the governor’s veto and avoid a state government shutdown.

The budget compromise temporarily raises the state sales tax from 5 percent to 5.5 percent and meals and lodging taxes from 7 percent to 8 percent through June 30, 2015. It also restores about 65 percent of the $200 million in municipal revenue sharing that LePage proposed suspending for two years in the budget plan he introduced in January.

“We have made adjustments to the budget that reflect a 33 percent reduction in revenue sharing that we currently receive, [about] $298,000,” Fussell said. “That is a third of what we previously had in our budget, however, on the school side we’re anticipating more money in general education aid that will offset that loss.”

The education figures are based on numbers the city created based on annual funding data because the Department of Education was unwilling to provide any projected figures, she said.

Brewer’s proposed municipal budget for fiscal year 2013-14 is approximately $12.19 million, about $61,880 or 0.5 percent less than this year’s budget, and the county budget is $878,532, an increase of $31,042.

The school board on June 3 approved its $20.3 million preliminary school budget, which is an increase of $315,489 or 1.6 percent. It requires approximately $7.4 million from residents — an increase of $1.2 million, or 20.5 percent — compared with this year.

The school budget still needs City Council and residential approval before it is made final. Polls for the school budget validation referendum will be open 7 a.m.-8 p.m. July 8 at the Brewer Auditorium. Residents also will be asked if they want to continue the school budget validation referendum process for another three years.

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