AUBURN — Cutting money paid to the Growth Council and L/A Arts, and charging residents for trash bags were ideas put forward Monday to keep the city's budget in line.
City Manager Glenn Aho repeated his request to councilors to put their budget trimming ideas on the table. Municipal cost increases are responsible for about 35 cents of a proposed $1.74 tax rate increase, Aho said. Cuts in state money and other revenue reductions are responsible for the rest.
"We cannot grow our way out of this," Aho said. "What we need are policy changes."
Councilors continued their review of Aho's proposed budget Monday. It calls for a $983,004 increase in spending combined with a $475,768 reduction in non-property tax revenues. Combined, the city-side of the proposed budget would need an additional $1.5 million from property taxes.
Combined with a proposed $1.9 million property tax increase for the schools and a $33,209 increase from Androscoggin County, that comes to $3.2 million more from property taxes. That amounts to an increase of $1.78 per $1,000 of value increase in property taxes. That's an increase of about $258 for a $145,000 home.
Councilors will have to cut that increase by $2.35 million to stay below a 2.1 percent spending cap, Aho said.
"We only have four meetings left — only four meetings where we can really get any work done — so I'd really like to hear your suggestions," Aho said.
Councilor Mike Farrell repeated his suggestion to cut the $167,000 Auburn pays to the Lewiston Auburn Economic Growth Council. That money, taken from Auburn tax increment finance revenues and earmarked for economic development, could be redirected to pay development costs at city industrial parks.
Not everyone agreed.
"I think the (growth) council started the cooperative spirit between Lewiston and Auburn," Hayes said. "I think some serious reflecting is due before we make any decisions."
Farrell also suggested cutting all funding for L/A Arts, consolidating some Auburn fire stations and suggested the city find out how much starting a paid-bag trash collection program would save the city. Under that kind of program, curbside trash would only be collected if in a bag sold by the city.?
The first public hearing on the draft budget is scheduled for April 4. Councilors are scheduled to adopt the final budget in May.
Councilors also said it was time to end the early spring budget review meetings with their counterparts in Lewiston. This year's meeting, scheduled for April 11 in Lewiston, puts all of the councilors from both cities in one room to hear funding requests from local service groups.
"We get to hear all the presentations, but we never have a chance to reach any kind of consensus," Councilor Dan Herrick said. "Then, we end up going back and forth at the end of year, trying to figure out what we're going to fund and how much. But nothing gets decided at that meeting."
Mayor Dick Gleason suggested representatives from the groups present their funding requests to Auburn on April 11 and Lewiston on April 12.
"It might give us an opportunity to ask more direct questions," Gleason said.