AUBURN — New Auburn's fire station would be closed 190 days out of the year under a budget approved by city councilors Monday night.
A plan to schedule fire department "brownouts" was among $1.7 million in cuts approved as part of the 2013-14 budget.
"It certainly is not something I feel good about, but it may be a part of our reality," fire Chief Frank Roma said. "We are not alone in this."
Other budget cuts include biweekly curbside recycling collections and funding reductions in multiple departments.
Funding for the Lewiston-Auburn Economic Growth Council, the Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport, Community Little Theatre and L/A Arts was also reduced under the new budget.
The fiscal year 2013-14 budget calls for $73.7 million in total spending for the city and the schools and an estimated $41.5 million in property taxes. Councilors will vote on a new school budget in July. Voters will have the final say on that budget.
Taxpayers were not helped by an updated property valuation that showed Auburn losing almost $4 million — from $2.01 billion to $2.006 billion.
All told, the new budget looks to set the city's tax rate at $20.70 per $1,000 of assessed property value. That translates into a $3,104 tax bill for a $150,000 home — an increase of $166 compared to 2012-13 fiscal year.
Councilors have been working on their municipal budget since April. They approved a first draft version of the budget and a capital plan at their June 3 meeting that would have increased taxes by $275 on a $150,000 home knowing that they'd have to make deeper cuts.
They wanted to wait until voters had weighed in on the school budget's proposed 6.9 percent increase. It would have increased the school budget to $38.4 million for the 2013-14 year — a potential 11 percent property tax increase for the schools — and voters turned it down overwhelmingly at the polls.
Last week, councilors told staff to draft a budget that cut $2.3 million off the city and school spending plans. Combined with cuts already proposed by the School Committee, staff needed to find an additional $1.7 million.
Monday night, councilors got to see what that budget looked like.
One cut, which would have sent voters to a single polling place in November and June 2014, didn't survive council scrutiny.
"In a city this size, with this many miles, it's not practical to have one polling place," Ward 5 Councilor Belinda Gerry said. "There are still people without cars and there is not adequate public transportation. There are many reasons to keep multiple polling places."
A single polling place for both elections would have saved the city $4,410. Councilors compromised, keeping all five polling places open in November but sending June 2014 primary voters to a single polling place for a $2,205 savings.
Most other cuts City Manager Clinton Deschene proposed survived with little debate.
Roma said the brownouts are the logical result of no budgetary increase in overtime. With overtime budget locked at the current year levels, Roma said he will not have staff to keep all the stations open year round.
When firefighters take vacation, days off or sick days, the remaining staff will be moved around to other stations.
"What we will have to do is see what the best risk management profile for the city that will brown out a station and still provide the best service for the city," Roma said. "Right now, Station 2 in New Auburn appears to be the one that will fit that profile."
Councilors did have concerns about closing the New Auburn fire station, but not enough to put them back in.