Brewer adopts budget, sets school referendum date

Posted June 28, 2013, at 7:46 p.m.
Last modified June 28, 2013, at 8:42 p.m.

BREWER, Maine — In a 4-1 vote, city councilors adopted a budget for 2013-14, City Manager Stephen Bost said Friday.

Mayor Kevin O’Connell, Deputy Mayor Jerry Goss and Councilors Arthur Verow and Joseph Ferris voted in support of the budget, while Councilor Matthew Vachon opposed it, Bost said.

Brewer’s municipal budget for fiscal year 2013-14, which kicks in on Monday, is approximately $12.19 million, about $61,880 or 0.5 percent less than this year’s budget, and the county tax amounts to $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 in local tax dollars — an increase of $1.2 million, or 20.5 percent — compared with this year.

The total combined budget is 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.

Friday’s adoption of Brewer’s city budget took place during a special council meeting conducted late Friday afternoon for that purpose.

Because of ongoing uncertainty over how much state funding to expect, city leaders waited until state legislators passed the biennial budget before adopting their own. The state budget, however, was not approved until Wednesday, when the Maine Legislature voted to override Gov. Paul LePage’s veto of a compromise budget hammered out over several months.

The delay 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 slated to rise to $21.05 per $1,000 in property value and now is projected to be $20.92.

The state 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.

To that end, Brewer officials adjusted their budget to reflect a 33 percent loss in state revenue sharing. An anticipated increase in school funding, however, helped offset that loss.

Residents will vote on the school budget during a validation referendum on July 8. The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Brewer Auditorium. Residents also will be asked if they want to continue the school budget validation referendum process for another three years.

(Bangor Daily News reporter Nok-Noi Ricker contributed to this report.)

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