Councilors set special budget meeting Monday

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AUBURN — With a $734,470 property tax levy increase possible, councilors will meet again Monday, May 23, to see if they can settle the fiscal year 2011-12 budget once and for all.

Councilors on Monday voted down the proposed budget as it stands. It would have meant a 54-cent property tax rate increase and $77.47 more on next year’s tax bill for the average home.

City Manager Glenn Aho said he would present the same budget at the June 6 meeting — at that point, the next scheduled council meeting — because councilors had given him no feedback.

“So that’s why we’ve scheduled this meeting Monday,” Mayor Dick Gleason said. “The city manager complained we had not given him enough direction, so that’s what we’re going to do.”

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The meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. Monday in the council chambers in Auburn Hall.

Councilors have until the end of June to settle the budget. According to the City Charter, the manager’s proposed budget is adopted by default if they are unable to agree and pass one of their own.

City Councilor Dan Herrick said he’s not willing to let that happen.

“I want the budget down to zero,” Herrick said. “I want the mill rate to be down right where it was last year. We forced the school district to have no property tax increase. I think we should be able to do the same thing with the city.”

Councilor Belinda Gerry said she wanted to take a look at new positions, including a proposed receptionist for the city manager’s office and management of the city’s Information and Communications Technology Department.

“Why do we even have somebody in charge of that department?” she said. “There are only three people there, so why do they need a manager?”

Councilor Eric Samson said he was more concerned about how the proposed budget is distributed among departments.

“For me, there’s not a mandate to come in at zero,” Samson said. “But there are budget discrepancies we’ve uncovered and they worry me.”

For example, a line in the Public Works Department was off by $150,000 because three positions that had been eliminated had not been removed from the books.

“You keep seeing these things and at some point, it starts to look like a trend,” Samson said.

Councilor Mike Farrell said he did not favor deeper cuts this year because of the effect they would have on city services.

“I would love to come in at zero, but we’re still dealing with the effects of the $1 million in cuts we made last year,” Farrell said. “I’m afraid if we go much further, we cross a line. And right now, we are toeing that line and I’m not sure we want to cross it.”

staylor@sunjournal.com

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