City to seek $3.9M in budget cuts

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LEWISTON — Councilors will have their work cut out for them as they begin trimming $3.9 million from the city budget this week.

City Administrator Ed Barrett presented his first draft of the 2010-11 fiscal year budget to councilors and community members Tuesday night.

“I think we will still be seeing slow economic recovery,” Barrett said. “Hopefully, things will stabilize this year.”

The draft budget calls for slightly more than $46.6 million in spending next year, which represents an 8.22 percent decrease from the budget requests submitted by city departments. It also represents about a $2.8 million increase over this year’s approved budget of $43.8 million.

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The proposed budget includes predictions of higher energy costs from heating oil and vehicle fuel. While salaries are expected to increase, Barrett recommended eliminating five positions and potentially cutting up to 20 more.

Barrett said reductions in state aid would force the most budget cuts. Legislators look to trim $1.6 million in sales tax revenue sharing — a 30 percent decrease from the approximate $5.3 million the city expected to receive.

Barrett’s proposal would result in a $1 increase in the property tax rate from $24.90 to $25.90. Homeowners whose property is valued at $100,000 would see an increase of $100 per year in taxes.

“I just want you and everyone else to know that I will not vote for an increase in taxes,” said Councilor Ronald W. Jean, who represents Ward 4.

Councilors are scheduled to begin reviewing department budgets Thursday to look for places to cut. The meetings are open to the public and several councilors invited community members to be part of the process early on, rather than flooding council chambers just before the council votes on the final budget.

“Everybody here takes it very seriously that 20 employees could lose their jobs,” said Councilor Mark Cayer, who represents Ward 6.

Councilors are scheduled to meet every Tuesday and Thursday night through April to review the budget. They are scheduled to adoop budget at their May 18 meeting.

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