LEWISTON — A newly approved budget will increase property taxes by $58 for the average homeowner.
City councilors approved a $31.5 million spending plan Tuesday night. Combined with county expenses, debt service payments, School Department spending and debt, that sets the city's budget at $95.2 million — a 1.06 percent spending increase compared to the current, 2010-11 fiscal year.
With $48.4 million in state aid to education, revenue-sharing, fund balances and other revenues, it leaves a $46.5 million property tax levy, a 0.3 percent increase over to the current year.
Overall, the property tax rate would increase 39 cents for every $1,000 of value, to a $25.79 mill rate.
That amounts to a $58.50 tax bill increase on a home valued at $150,000.
Tuesday's vote was a long way from where councilors began on March 29 when the budget was first presented.
City Administrator Ed Barrett had high praise for councilors and staff for trimming $766,494 from the proposed budget.
"I think it was a very productive process this year," Barrett said. "We appreciate you working together and forging consensus on many issues."
That included a decision not to buy two of the four new police cruisers requested — a $20,950 savings per vehicle.
Cuts also included reductions in salaries and wages in the Highway Department, moving salary for one patrolman's position into the grant-funded Computer Crimes Task Force, reductions in severance pay packages and contingency money. The city also moved summer street resurfacing projects for Webber and South avenues and Montello Street to the annual capital improvements bond.
Barrett praised the School Department for making its own cuts.
"They voluntarily came forward with a $200,000 reduction in their spending," Barrett said. "We didn't even have to ask them for that. So the School Committee and the superintendent should be thanked and credited for taking that action."
One issue that councilors left alone was bus transportation for the parochial school students attending St. Dominic Academy on Main Street. St. Dom's students are picked up alongside Lewiston public school students. The practice costs the city $125,600 for three full-time buses.
Councilors agreed to continue fully funding the buses, which pleased parents of the Catholic school students.
"We wish to express our sincere gratitude for your help this evening and for providing a safe way for our children to attend school this year," said Jim Boulet of 45 Buckley St.
Councilor John Butler, who proposed ending the practice, said he still hoped to push to have the responsibility for funding the buses moved to the School Department. That item should be on the City Council's agenda in June.
"That's what they do in every other city," Butler said. "I don't see why we should be any different."