Houlton to consider $9.8 million budget, possible tax increase, next week

Posted Jan. 06, 2014, at 4:19 p.m.

HOULTON, Maine — Residents here will have their chance to voice their opinion on the town’s $9.8 million budget on Jan. 13, a proposal that the town manager said Monday will “most likely increase taxes” if passed.

The total $9,853,105 budget is up $133,264 over last year, according to Town Manager Gene Conlogue. That figure includes the community’s share of the Aroostook County tax and estimated portion of the RSU 29 school budget.

The meeting beginning at 6 p.m. Jan. 13 will allow councilors to consider some town business, but will primarily be a public hearing to give residents an opportunity to comment on the budget before councilors decide to pass it or vote it down.

Conlogue said that several factors contributed to the budget increases, including a $44,516 spike in the police department account. Three quarters of that amount was due to due to the municipality getting to the end of a grant that provided federal funds for the department.

Other increases were attributed to municipal employee benefits, which climbed $24,709 over last year. Conlogue said that the town is looking to freeze wage increases next year, except in instances where it is contractually obligated.

“Several employees will get a wage increase because it is in their contract,” he said. “But otherwise, we are looking at a zero wage increase.”

At the same time, Conlogue said, the council is considering a $50,000 borrowing package to make necessary capital improvements. It would be financed by a one year loan that would be repaid in the 2015 budget.

Conlogue said that the money could help finance such projects as a new telephone system for all of the municipal buildings, as the manager said that the current system is old and getting increasingly difficult to use. The loan also could pay for a new cruiser for the police department or a four wheel drive pickup for the public works department.

The town has to estimate what their contribution to RSU 29 will be, as the school system does not vote on its budget until June. The town estimates that it will contribute $2,449,570 to the district this year, which would be an increase of $234,540 over last year’s school budget if that were the final total.

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