Auburn budget cuts tough, but tax rate impact limited

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AUBURN — How deep the City Manager’s budget axe actually cuts depends on perspective.

From a city services point of view, cuts proposed to councilors last week are deep. The fountains in Festival Plaza would be turned off, the Center Street fire station would be moved and  neighborhood polling places would be consolidated into one location under cuts proposed by City Manager Glenn Aho Thursday.

“These are not cuts I’m recommending,” Aho said Friday. “Councilors said they wanted to make cuts, and these are what I was able to come up with so far.”

Those initial cuts amount to $840,829 off of the draft 2010-11 budget, and Aho said they’re not popular with councilors or residents.

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“(Councilors have) already started backing off of some of them,” Aho said Friday. “They may not happen, or we may have to start looking for other cuts.”

But as uncomfortable as those cuts are, they’d  have a limited impact on the city’s property tax rate.

Aho’s original draft budget called for a $1.68 increase on the tax rate —$336 property tax increase on taxes for homes valued at $200,000.

Even with the cuts Aho proposed Thursday, the city’s tax rate will still rise $1.32 compared to the current year. And Aho said that if he finds $1 million in budget cuts — the amount councilors directed him to find last week — the tax rate will still increase by $1.19 per $1,000 of value.

Councilors will continue their budget review Monday, first with a 5:30 p.m. public hearing on the fate of spring cleanup collections this year — Aho has canceled the collections to save money — and later with a review of budget items shared with the city of Lewiston. That meeting is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.

Aho’s proposed draft calls for $30.9 million in spending in the next fiscal year, a 3 percent increase over the current budget. Coupled with cuts of $2.7 million in state revenues coming to the city, it would mean a 9 percent increase in property taxes and a $336 property tax increase for homes valued at $200,000.

That reduction in state aid is the biggest problem, Aho said. Without it, councilors would be considering a 30 cent drop in the property tax rate — not an increase. He’s urged councilors and residents to contact state and federal legislators.

To keep the tax rate steady, Aho said the council needs to find either $3.5 million in new revenues or cut $3.5 million from the budget. Councilors responded by asking for $1 million in cuts.

“And we’ll take more if we can get it,” Councilor Ray Berube said at the April 5 meeting.

Aho said he and his staff are continuing to look. Cuts proposed so far would reduce winter snow plowing and salt use — crews would begin plowing later in the morning after a storm, letting the city cut $26,000 in annual overtime — reductions in police coverage at festivals, events and running races.

Proposed cuts would also have the city close the Center Street fire station, moving Fire Engine No. 5  and its crew to the Auburn Public Works shops on Gracelawn Road. It would save the city an estimated $7,159.

But Aho said he mistakenly mixed up Engine No. 5 and Engine No. 2 — housed in the New Auburn substation — in discussions with firefighters and in his note to the city councilors. That had fire crews and residents in New Auburn calling councilors and Auburn City Hall worried that the budget would end fire protection in New Auburn.

“That was never my intent; it was just a mistake,” Aho said.

Aho said councilors have already questioned moving the Center Street station.

“It’s in a good place where it is to respond to accidents on Center Street, so that may be coming back on the budget,” he said. “But that means I’ll just have to find cuts someplace else.”

staylor@sunjournal.com

Fiscal year 2010-11 Budget

March 15, 2010

Proposed draft: $41,360,362
Proposed tax rate $19.99 (a $1.68 tax rate increase.)

April 8, 2010

Proposed Cuts from draft budget

City Clerk
• Single polling place: $1,600

City Manager
• Events, subscriptions, mileage: $1,500
• Assistant City Mgr. wages: $6,123

General government
• Customer Services training: $5,000
• Non-union wage adjustments: $51,092
• Auburn Library: $38,337

Fire
• Move Center St. Fire station to Public Works: $7,159
• Licenses , training, memberships: $17,900
• Cell phones, headsets, microphones: $910
• Repairs, driveway and roof: $1,500
• Breathing apparatus (SCBA): $37,670
• Travel costs: $1,200

Human Services
• Recruiting ads, follow-ups, physicals: $3,500
• Pandemic flu event: $2,500

Intergovernmental
• Airport: $5,000
• LA Arts: $700
• LA 911: $10,000
•Transit—Citylink: $46,362

Mayor and Council
• Meals: $5,000
• Events registration: $1,250
• Community, Employee recog: $2,750
• Office supplies, mileage: $450

Public Works
• Training and advertising: $1,750
• Wood/brush chipping: $6,700
• Curbside recycling: $156,000
• Road salt: $32,000
• Winter plowing overtime: $26,000
• Spring clean-up: $28,500
• Other: $54,008

Police
• Event coverage: $11,972
• Supplies, maintenance, cell:$1,306
• Staffing, sick time, vacation coverage: $21,811
• Unlimted cruiser washes: $6,000
• Work. Comp replacement: $6,240
• Delayed Hiring/Reassign RSO: $73,001

Planning and Permitting
• Street light reductions: $6,000
•Public notice hearings: $1,000
• Phones, supplies, vehicles: $2,674
• Contracted services: $2,500
• Uniforms for electricians: $750
• Field inspectors: $300

Recreation
• Beach lifeguard: $6,500
• Festival Plaza lights, fountain: $6,802
• Turner Street landscaping contract: $9,500
• Training and association dues: $1,730
• Mileage: $100
•Portable generator: $650
• Clothing allowance: $1,200
• Community Programs: $3,700
• Cell phones: $432

Capital purchases
• Community services: $24,000
• Planning$40,000
• Police: $24,000
• Recreation: $50,500

Proposed increases

Public Works
• Complete signs: $14,300

Total proposed cuts $840,829
Draft budget after cuts: $40,519,533
Tax rate with cuts: $19.63 ($1.32 tax rate increase)

April 12, 2010
• Council hearing on Spring Clean-up 2010
• Joint meeting with the Lewiston City Council to discuss intergovernmental budget

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