LEWISTON – City councilors may have to settle for some property tax increases in next year’s budget, Councilor Robert Reed said Tuesday.

“If we decide we’re at the perfect place, a small increase might be feasible,” Reed said. “There’s nothing written in stone that says we can’t reduce taxes. We don’t want to; we don’t like it, but we can do it if we have to.”

Councilors are reviewing a $43.6 million spending plan for fiscal year 2009-10.

On Tuesday, they reviewed their work so far. City Administrator Jim Bennett said councilors had to trim $1.06 million from the budget to keep taxes from increasing. Councilors already have rejected $370,000 in proposed cuts – $5,000 each from the airport and the Lewiston-Auburn Transit Committee and a proposed $360,641 deal with four of the city’s six labor unions to delay raises by six months.

With other proposed cuts and account transfers, the council is faced with a $458,166 budget increase. That’s a tax increase of $22.87 for an average home.

That’s not acceptable to Councilor Larry Poulin.

“I’m not in favor of any budgetary increase,” Poulin said. “I believe there are places that can be decreased.”

But prices all over have increased, Reed said. “The price of bread is up. Our costs are up as well, and a small increase can be fair under those circumstances.”

Councilors are scheduled to meet again Thursday night to review the school department’s proposed budget. The council will take next week off and continue budget discussions the following week.

Councilors also put an end to a proposal to narrow the city’s polling places from four to one in future elections. That would have trimmed $14,625 from the budget – about 1 cent off the tax rate.

“It’s not worth it for 1 cent,” Councilor Nelson Peters said.


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