Budget proposal leaves Lewiston, Auburn cold

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LEWISTON — State cuts to municipal revenue-sharing would hurt Twin Cities’ residents by either cutting their services or requiring a property tax hike.

Lewiston City Administrator Ed Barrett said state revenue-sharing accounts for about $4 million of the city’s $44 million municipal budget. Losing that revenue would be severe, triggering tax increases or steep budget cuts — and possibly both.

“We could eliminate the entire administration budget and still not cover it,” Barrett said. “That includes executive, legal, finance, mayor and council … Our police budget is $5.5 million. Our fire budget is $5.4 million. Public works is $6.9 million.”

Barrett said the city’s tax rate would have to go up by about $2 per $1,000 of property value to make up the difference. That’s about a $300 increase in property taxes on a $150,000 home.

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“It creates a significant problem for us in terms of balancing how Draconian the cuts would have to be against how much the citizens could afford to pay in additional property taxes,” Barrett said. “There is no question in my mind it would be virtually impossible to maintain an adequate service level without a property tax increase to make up some of the difference.”

Auburn City Manager Clinton Deschene said revenue-sharing accounted for $2.4 million of that city’s $32 million budget.

“Obviously, it has to be addressed in the city budget,” Deschene said. “There are a number of ideas running through my head right now on how we could address it, but it’s going to be a challenge.”

Deschene said department heads are submitting their budget requests for the 2013-14 fiscal year and he hopes to present a proposed budget to councilors in March.

“If this happens, we will have to take quite a bit more time,” Deschene said. “I have questions now about why, where the money would go. Maybe it’s going to be redirected to another program. We have a lot of questions right now.”

Barrett said cuts represent an attempt by the state to push state budget problems down to the local level.

“I will put what the city of Lewiston has done to control costs over the last 12 years against what the state has done on any given day,” Barrett said. “We have done more to cut personnel and done more to control cost than the state ever has.”

staylor@sunjournal.com

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