Administrator sees little room in budget as city begins review

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LEWISTON — State revenue cuts and a slow national economy will make things tough for City Councilors to balance their budget this year.

City Administrator Ed Barrett said he’s about ready to tell councilors how difficult. He has scheduled to present his draft budget to councilors at a special meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday in Lewiston City Hall.

Barrett said he wants to release budget details to councilors, the public and the press all at once at Tuesday’s meetings. He did say that conditions had not approved much since January, when he outlined budget pressures for councilors.

“We’re still putting the finishing touches on everything, so we can paint the picture for councilors and the community of just where we’re starting from,” Barrett said.

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Decreases in state revenue sharing are the biggest factor in the city’s budget. In January, Barrett told councilors that revenue-sharing from state sales taxes are expected to be down $1.17 million for Lewiston in the 2010-11 fiscal year. Lewiston is also expecting to get $113,000 less state road maintenance support money.

One-time revenue generators the council used last year won’t be available this year. That includes $1.2 million from the city’s fund balance councilors used to boost the budget. Revenues are predicted to decrease from the city’s parking garages, sales of surplus properties and from intergovernmental agreements.

On the expense side, energy prices have continued to rise.

“In spite of our energy conservation efforts — which have helped — we’ve seen increases in prices over the past year that have to be built into the budget,” he said. “So there is a whole range of things coming to bear on the budget that will present some challenges as we move through the process.”

Barrett said the city could generate some savings by refinancing some of its debt, reducing its total debt load.

“But it’s clear that the state of the economy, the actions of the state Legislature and the normal increases in cost of living will require us to take a very hard look at everything in the budget,” Barrett said.

Councilors begin work reviewing departmental budgets Thursday night, as they go over the general government spending, the city’s Tax Increment Finance accounts, and the budgets for the Code Enforcement and Recreation Department budgets.

Councilors will meet two times each week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, through April reviewing the departmental budgets. They are scheduled to adopt their final budget on May 18.

staylor@sunjournal.com

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