AUBURN — A proposed 4.93 percent spending increase for Auburn schools now goes to voters.

City councilors approved the School Department’s second attempt at a school budget Monday night, setting the special budget referendum vote for July 23. According to state law, voters have final say on education spending.

Absentee ballots should be available Tuesday morning.

The proposed budget calls for $37.2 million in school spending. That represents a 4.93 percent overall increase and a 4.6 percent increase in the amount paid by Auburn’s property taxes.

Councilors initially balked at the increase.

“I think at this point, it’s wrong for us to send forth a budget we don’t think is going to be approved,” Councilor Joshua Shea said. “I don’t think a 4.6 percent rate is going to be approved by the voters.”

Shea changed his mind, however, when he learned the school’s budget takes over funding responsibilities for having police resource officers on the campus, a $100,000 line item the city has paid.

School and city officials traded funding for those officers last week, City Manager Clinton Deschene said. Without the swap, the school property tax increase would have been down to 3.5 percent.

“It’s not an increase in property taxes,” Deschene said. “It’s an item the city would have been responsible for.”

That number was palatable to Shea. It passed by a 6-1 vote, with Councilor Leroy Walker calling for a 3.99 percent increase.

School officials presented a 6.9 percent school spending increase to voters last month. It would have increased the school budget to $38.4 million for the 2013-14 year — a potential 11 percent property tax increase for the schools — and voters overwhelmingly turned it down at the polls.

Councilors approved the proposed school budget as part of the overall budget last week but needed a formal approval Monday to send it to voters.

The new fiscal year 2013-14 budget calls for $73.7 million in total spending for the city and the schools and an estimated $41.5 million in property taxes.

All told, the new budget looks to set the city’s tax rate $20.70 per $1,000 of value. That translates into $3,104 tax bill for a $150,000 home — an increase of $166 compared to the 2012-13 fiscal year.

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