June 20, 2018
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Rockland gets relief with state budget approval

By Stephen Betts, BDN Staff

ROCKLAND, Maine — Property owners in Rockland will get some relief with the adoption last week of a state budget.

But city government will still face possible budget cuts in two weeks.

The city had been expecting to pay an additional $284,000 in property taxes to Regional School Unit 13 but additional funding in the new state budget nearly erases that entire amount, RSU Superintendent Lew Collins announced last week. With the revised state aid projection, Rockland’s share of the school budget will increase by only $17,000.

The revised state budget figures also will benefit the other RSU 13 communities.

RSU 13 will hold a district-wide budget meeting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 24, at Oceanside High School East auditorium in Rockland. At that meeting, Collins said a motion will be made to reduce the amount of local taxes to be raised by $343,000, equaling the amount of additional state aid the district will receive.

The RSU 13 Board had voted already on June 20 to cut an additional $110,000 from the proposed 2013-2014 budget in hopes of getting the spending package approved by voters in the six communities. Voters in the district had rejected the initial proposal at the polls on June 11 by a 332-320 tally.

The proposed $26,883,000 budget represents about a 1 percent increase in spending from 2012-2013. The budget cuts several teaching positions including arts and social studies posts at Oceanside East. The effort by several board members to reinstate those positions on June 20 failed on a 6-4 vote. The board also reversed course and opted not to create a development director position that would have sought grants for RSU 13 to reduce the reliance on property taxes.

Municipal budget cuts

Approval of the state budget also gave municipal leaders a specific figure concerning state revenue sharing.

The city had expected a loss of revenue sharing of between $280,000 and $700,000 but City Manager James Smith said Monday that the loss will be $280,000.

The manager said that a plurality of councilors have directed him to account for the loss through budget cuts and not with increased taxes. At the June 24 meeting at which the budget was approved, Smith said a cut of $280,000 would translate to five jobs.

Smith said he and the administration will develop recommendations for the council and present them at a July 15 meeting.

If the city does not raise additional taxes and the school budget is approved as recommended by the administration, Rockland’s property tax rate will remain at $19.42 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

Mayor Will Clayton said that maintaining that rate is the goal of the city. He said his offer to the school district to use the city’s community development director for applying for grants is a way to work together for the benefit of Rockland. He said the decision concerning the use of the director’s time, however, rests with the city manager, who, Clayton said, is supportive of that possibility.

The additional state aid and municipal revenue sharing included in the state budget is being paid for through temporary sales and meals and lodging taxes. The state’s sales tax will rise from 5 to 5.5 percent and the meals and lodging taxes will rise from 7 to 8 percent from July 1, 2013, through July 1, 2015.

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