Friday, December 13, 2013
By Michael Shepherd email@example.com
HALLOWELL — City residents will have one last chance tonight to weigh in on a budget that is lower than last year's but is still expected to result in an 8 percent property tax increase.
The budget stands at $2.2 million, approximately 8 percent less than last year's budget, but taxpayers will have to pay more because state aid to Hallowell will be $70,000 lower because of reductions to cities and towns in the state's current two-year budget and the budget for Regional School Unit 2 is higher, which will cost Hallowell about $380,000 more.
City Manager Michael Starn said that will raise Hallowell's property tax rate per $1,000 of property value from $15.70 to $17.10, meaning a $280 tax hike on a $200,000 home.
The Hallowell City Council has passed two readings of the budget, but the body delayed the third and final one until this month amid concerns that city residents have foregone chances to speak for or against items in the budget before the council.
"Whether the public is essentially silent again in August, that would be the choice of the public," said councilor Lisa Harvey-McPherson at a meeting in July.
The city has begun the fiscal year, which began July 1, with no budget. That has left the city reliant on a continuing resolution, which has maintained funding levels from the previous budget.
Starn said only one member of the public has spoken on the budget at council meetings so far: Deborah Fahy, executive director of the Harlow Gallery, a downtown art gallery.
Hallowell's original proposal allocated only $500 to the gallery, down from $3,000 last year. The city bumped its share up to $2,000 after Fahy's lobbying.
The city could have cut $26,473 for Hallowell to contract with Delta Ambulance instead of the Augusta Fire Department for emergency medical services, as the council's Finance Committee recommended. Delta, a Waterville-based company, doesn't charge municipalities for its services, as it makes money from transporting patients.
But after Police Chief Eric Nason and Fire Chief Michael Grant both spoke in favor of continuing with Augusta and raised concerns about quality of rescue services, councilors decided not to pursue the change.
Michael Shepherd — 370-7652