Ellsworth approves small spending increase for 2014 budget

Posted July 10, 2013, at 4:18 p.m.

ELLSWORTH, Maine — Ten days after its original budget deadline, the city council here approved a spending plan for fiscal year 2014 — just four days before it began.

The budget, approved unanimously on June 27, increases municipal spending by about 1.5 percent, up from about $9.9 million last year to roughly $10 million for the year that began July 1 and will end June 30 next year.

After factoring in projected revenue — about $3 million — and the city’s share of the Regional School Unit 24 budget — about $10 million — the city will need to raise about $17 million in property taxes. That’s pushed the property tax rate up from $15.45 per $1,000 of property value to $16.01.

The average residential property in Ellsworth is worth about $160,000, said city assessor Larry Gardner. That means the average resident of Ellsworth will see a property tax bill increase of $89.

Finance Director Tammy Mote pointed out on Wednesday that while the property tax rate has increased, municipal spending is up only .24 percent over the past four years. Meanwhile, Ellsworth’s share of RSU 24 spending has increased more than 33 percent over the same time period.

Aside from operating expenses and school district contributions, the city’s spending in the coming year also includes $758,600 in capital improvements.

These are tangible purchases and upgrades that will be visible to residents and include $350,000 for road improvements; $175,000 for a new plow truck; $82,550 for a new cruiser and other equipment for the police department; $77,300 for a new pickup truck and other equipment for the fire department; and $15,000 for new furniture at Ellsworth Public Library.

The budget vote was delayed by 10 days at the June 17 meeting, when councilors decided to wait until the state government settled on a budget of its own, which includes revenue sharing for municipalities.

The state budget was approved on June 26 when the state House and Senate successfully overpowered Gov. Paul LePage’s veto.

Follow Mario Moretto on Twitter at @riocarmine.

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