AUBURN — Councilors said Monday they favored low property taxes and minimal increases in the city and school budgets in the coming year.

City Councilors and School Committee members put off talking about the budget details and planned capital items wish lists until their March 23 joint workshop meeting.

At Monday night’s workshop meeting, scheduled to take copies of capital items spending plans, councilors favored general discussions about overall city spending and a variety of other topics.

Over the course of the 90-minute discussion, comments ranged from Androscoggin County spending, potential economic development impact of the new Norway Savings Bank Ice Arena and state government impacts on the local budget.

Acting City Manager Howard Kroll said he knows very little about the city’s budget at this point, but knows it will be a tough process.

“It’s something we as city staff have to be aggressive on: How can we improve our tax rolls?” Kroll said. “How can we share that money so we can get a better education system and I can provide the services that you are looking for, from plowing the roads or your EMS system, or fire or police? It’s going to be a challenge. I’m not going to lie.”

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But the main topic of the evening was capital projects — long-term public works projects and expensive equipment purchases city departments and the schools need to plan for. By charter, the council has to adopt a long-term plan spelling out how projects and equipment will be purchased over the next five years. Staff uses the plan each year to help guide them in drafting the municipal budget.

Auburn’s plan this year calls for $15.15 million in spending, including $14.6 million in bonded borrowing and $492,784 out of the operating budget.

“To talk about the (capital improvement plan) tonight would just be a fruitless activity,” Councilor Mary Lafontaine said. “Maybe we can do something at the 30,000-foot level but any discussion on the document just does not make sense without more advanced preparation to review it.”

Auburn’s capital plan is available online on the City of Auburn’s Finance Department page.

The School Department’s plan calls for $6.2 million for the 2015-16 fiscal year.

But councilors and committee members said they needed time to review the plans before they could discuss them. Superintendent Katy Grondin said her plan would be on the school department’s website Tuesday.

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“We need to figure out where we want to be on the budget,” School Committee member Bonnie Hayes said. “We need a united front on what we need, instead of arguing back and forth.”

Councilor Tizz Crowley said she had a simple test. She planned to vote for a budget that stayed under a 1.8 percent budget increase for both city and schools. Councilors Robert Hayes, Mary Lafontaine, Leroy Walker, Belinda Gerry all said they would agree to that level at this point in the discussions.

“I think that’s a starting point,” Hayes said. “I guess we just have to see where it takes us. It may end up being too hard to swallow, but that’s got to be first step.”

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