BUCKSPORT, Maine — Councilors here have opted to extend their budget deliberation process beyond the June 30 deadline thanks to last-minute legislative maneuvering in Augusta that will mean more money flowing from state coffers to the town than originally anticipated.
More, but not enough, said Bucksport Town Manager Michael Brennan. The bipartisan biennial budget, passed this week by legislators who overrode Gov. LePage’s veto, means between $150,000 and $180,000 in revenue sharing for Bucksport.
Because the governor had proposed slashing revenue sharing entirely, councilors in Bucksport crafted a roughly $11 million budget to accommodate that worst-case scenario.
That plan would have necessitated property tax increases in the town. The budget that passed on Wednesday reduces revenue sharing by about a third — down to roughly $65 million from $95 million in the last biennial.
And while legislators may be patting themselves on the back for coming up with a veto-proof deal, Bucksport isn’t joining them. Brennan said the amount the budget provides is still a far cry from the roughly $270,000 the town normally receives.
“It’s certainly better than nothing,” he said Thursday, but “it’s unfortunate that the state is still choosing to balance its budget on the backs of municipalities. We should be partners, and we’re not being treated like partners.”
Bucksport now has until July 30 to pass a budget. The fiscal year ends June 30, and the town will continue funding town administration and services at the current level for the 30-day window. Mayor David Keene said the extension is necessary.
“We’ve got new numbers from the state, and we’re going to review the town valuation and [property tax] rate,” he said.
Brennan said the restoration of revenue sharing and increased spending for education in the bipartisan budget would mean the town could cut its expected property tax hike by at least 20 cents per $1,000 of valuation.
The Maine Municipal Association said the budget is a huge improvement over LePage’s proposal, but that it would still leave Maine towns and cities choosing between tax hikes or reductions in services. Most likely, municipalities will do a combination of both, the group said.
Follow Mario Moretto on Twitter at @riocarmine.