LEWISTON — Councilors sparred briefly Tuesday over how to best use the federal Community Development Block grant money.

Economic & Community Development Director Lincoln Jeffers said the city expects to receive about $722,000 — a 36 percent cut over the last four years.

“We are continuing to run lean,” Jeffers said.

Lewiston is one of several cities that receives federal CDBG money. Communities have used it to pay for social service agencies, building affordable housing and paying for community amenities.

Councilor Craig Saddlemire wanted council colleagues to consider paying some city costs with general fund revenues instead of block grant money. That could include a general assistance position or a code enforcement position the city funded last year with block grant money.

“It’s competing with social services agency funding, groups that are applying,” Saddlemire said. “I do think we should start moving that back to the city budget.”

But Councilor Donald D’Auteuil said that was not a good idea right now.

“We are constantly looking for things on our list to cut out of our budget,” D’Auteuil said. “If we can find a way to fund these things now and continue forward with it, why not fund it that way? It’s not another cut that has to come out of the budget.”

Councilors are working their way through a difficult budget that cuts many capital and new programs but still raises property taxes by 4.4 percent in an effort to balance the budget. That amounts to a $1.15 increase on the tax rate, a $171 increase on a home valued at $150,000.

On Tuesday, they reviewed budget requests for the Lewiston Public Library, the Lewiston Police and the community budgets.

The draft police budget calls for a $235,000 increase over the 2012-13 budget. The bulk of that increase comes from personnel costs that had been covered by grants in the past.

The total library budget has come down almost $19,000 in the proposed budget. That includes $11,000 in maintenance on the library building.

The City Council’s budget review continues next week, with the first public hearing on the proposed budget at the April 16 regular council meeting and more department reviews at a special workshop Thursday, April 18.

A final public hearing on the budget is scheduled for May 7. According to the City Charter, the council must adopt the budget by May 31.

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