Auburn converts cap on spending to trim taxes


AUBURN — Councilors agreed to convert an 8-year-old cap on city spending into a cap on property taxes Monday night.

Councilors voted unanimously to make the switch, and voted that future councilors must have a five-vote majority to override the cap.

“I think we have to look at both expenditures and revenue,” Councilor Robert Hayes said. “We want economic development to increase our tax base and increase our revenues so we can keep up with our infrastructure, particularly our roads. So we do ourselves a disservice if we get new revenues but don’t let ourselves use them appropriately.”

Auburn adopted the spending cap in 2007. According to the ordinance, overall city budgeted expenditures cannot increase more than the Consumer Price Index for the previous year unless a majority of councilors vote to override the cap.

According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Urban CPI rate for October 2014 was 1.7 percent. 

The new ordinance caps the tax commitment. Municipal spending could increase as long as the total amount of taxes the city collects stays level.

“If we don’t have this, I’m afraid we are going to end up bonding,” Hayes said. “We are just going to end up borrowing and paying for it over time.”

Councilors narrowly voted down the conversion on first reading earlier this month. With Councilor David Young absent from that meeting, the vote ended in a tie. Mayor Jonathan LaBonte cast the deciding vote against converting the cap.

The difference in Monday’s vote was approving a five-vote super majority to override the cap. Councilor Tizz Crowley, who voted against the conversion at the earlier meeting, said she’d support it if future councilors needed to work harder to override.

“Otherwise, it’s a waste of time,” Crowley said. “I’ve sat here three times before and we simply passed the override each time. So why bother? I think there needs to be a control of the tax rate, but if it’s a simple four votes to override, it’s a waste of time.”

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