LEWISTON – Senior citizen programs won’t move out of the Multi-Purpose Center, councilors agreed Tuesday.
The city will take the next year to look at the senior citizen needs in the building and determine if it’s the best space for them. That includes the offices and community rooms where seniors gather daily to play pinochle, bridge and beano.
“We need to take that time to work out what the best situation really is for those people,” said Councilor Lillian O’Brien.
Councilors killed a cost-cutting plan that would have moved the senior programs into the Lewiston Armory. Longley School students would have taken over the Multi-Purpose Center space, letting the school department save $200,000 in rent for temporary buildings. The schools would have paid that money to the city in rent.
The council’s decision means that more Longley students will be in temporary buildings next year.
“But I think young students are better able to adapt to something like that than senior citizens,” Councilor Normand Rousseau said.
Councilors also put back $20,000 in spending for a school nurse for area parochial schools. That was another cost-savings City Administrator Jim Bennett had included in his proposed budget.
Those changes put more pressure on efforts to create a storm sewer utility to bring in about $1.6 million more. That would pay for street sweeping, culvert work and annual catch basin cleaning.
Mayor Lionel Guay defended the plan, saying it had been misunderstood.
“Calling this a rain tax is not accurate,” Guay said. “That’s simply not what it is. It’s hard enough for people to understand, and that doesn’t help.”
The city would begin charging a fee based on the amount of hard surfaces on a lot – such as driveways, sidewalks and roofs. The fee would target large businesses and private organizations such as Bates College, churches and hospitals.
Private homeowners would pay a set fee, $30 per year.
Property taxes would be reduced about $1.5 million, Bennett said, and most residential tax payers would pay the city about $60 less per year overall. Any taxpayers who paid more than $1,000 in property taxes last year would see their tax bills go down by about $90.
“If you paid less than a $1,000 in property taxes, this is a bad idea for you,” Bennett said. “If you paid more than that, you’ll save money.”
Councilors will take up the fee again at their May 9 meeting. That will give Bennett and his staff time to come up with actual costs for businesses, nonprofits and apartment complexes.