AUBURN — Councilors will swap $20,160 originally set aside for L/A Arts and give it to Community Little Theater, according to a budget proposal Thursday night.
Councilors hosted a workshop meeting Thursday to go over remaining budget items in preparation for a June 4 first reading. The proposed budget calls for a 0.4 percent increase in the municipal property tax. That amounts to 2.42 percent increase in the total tax rate when combined with the school budget approved by voters last week.
Part of Thursday's discussions centered on funding requests for agencies funded jointly by the cities of Lewiston and Auburn — the Lewiston Auburn Economic Growth Council and L/A Arts.
Councilors agreed to fully fund the $160,687 for the growth council's marketing and loan programs but promised greater scrutiny of the board.
Councilor Joshua Shea said he had bigger concerns about the $20,160 budgeted for L/A Arts. He noted the agency does not provide entertainment programs in Auburn, but competes for sponsors and for dates with groups that do.
"I have no problem with them bringing in programs," Shea said. "I think it's fantastic. They bring in some acts from around the world that we would not see here. Where I think it falls down is believing they need city money."
Instead, Shea suggested giving that money to Community Little Theatre to help its efforts to build a community arts center in the Great Falls School.
"If you truly want to invest the $20,160 that we've decided is going to arts and culture and you want that investment to directly affect Auburn, this is where it needs to go," Shea said.
Councilors Belinda Gerry, Tizz Crowley and Robert Hayes said they agreed. Councilor David Young said he was hesitant because the L/A Arts budget is part of a larger joint services agreements with Lewiston.
Interim City Manager Don Gerrish said it was the last major issue councilors needed to settle before finishing their budget.
Councilors said in April that they could live with a 3 percent property tax increase. Since then, Gerrish said staff found an additional $672,590 in non-property tax revenues and $153,039 in spending cuts. Municipal spending for fiscal year 2012-13, including programs shared with Lewiston and county taxes, would be $36.4 million. That's a $748,752 increase compared to the current budget.
Combined with the school department's $35.9 million budget approved by voters, Auburn would need to collect $40.8 million in property taxes, a 2.25 percent increase over the current tax rate.
If councilors approve June 4, the new tax rate would be $19.86 per $1,000. That would amount to a $71 tax payment increase on a $150,000 home.