Auburn council to get first look at budget

0

AUBURN — The City Council will get its first official look at the 2017-18 fiscal budget Monday, to be presented by new City Manager Peter Crichton.

The joint workshop with the School Committee comes two weeks after a professional development session among the new manager, City Council and staff, which focused on keeping clear lines of responsibility. 

For Crichton, his first budget unveiling in Auburn is a quick turnaround, but he said Friday that “the heavy lifting has been done before I got here.” 

He said John Bubier, who was acting city manager until Crichton was hired, and Finance Director Jill Eastman “have worked hard in putting together a good budget.” 

Advertisement

Since then, he said, he’s been reviewing the numbers, and has met with department heads to review their respective expenses. 

On Monday, Crichton will give an overview of the major things driving the budget, he said. 

“Every year is challenging, and this one is no different,” he said. 

A year ago, former Fire Chief Frank Roma and four other employees were laid off during budget talks among a series of cuts and department restructuring. 

An ordinance requires the city to keep any property tax increases below the Consumer Price Index urban rate, which was 0.7 percent last year. Councilors can override that limit with a five-vote majority, but several had said they preferred to stick to that rule. 

This year, municipalities across the state have been struggling to craft local budgets because of uncertainty over the state budget, which will not be decided until June. 

Part of the discussion during the workshop two weeks ago centered on the budget process. Many on the council said they preferred to start earlier in the spring. In Lewiston, the council has been holding budget workshops for weeks. 

Crichton said the workshop was beneficial for everyone, and that some changes have already occurred. He said they’ve already changed to a monthly report to update council initiatives, which he said “shows there’s a lot going on in the city.”

He said now they need to develop a work plan, and prioritize projects.

“We can’t do everything at once,” he said.

Auburn Superintendent Katy Grondin will give a presentation of the school budget Monday. 

In early March, Grondin said the initial figure for next year’s school budget was $42.05 million, up $1.28 million from the current budget. 

Some of the reasons for the higher spending include $552,623 more to cover staff raises, a projected increase in retirement benefits and health care increases. 

If Gov. Paul LePage’s proposed budget is approved untouched, Auburn stands to lose $431,000 in state aid for education. State aid is yet another uncertainty caused by the slow budget deliberations in Augusta. 

There will also be a public hearing Monday on Auburn’s Community Development Block Grant budget.

The 42-year-old federal program is used by municipalities across the country to support neighborhood rehabilitation projects and affordable housing.

In Auburn, the $760,000 budget includes funding for various public service agencies, housing programs, neighborhood infrastructure projects and administrative costs.

arice@sunjournal.com

Advertisement
SHARE