AUBURN — City Councilors continued scrutinizing shared services Monday, taking a hard look at operations at the municipal airport, 911 center, bus service and in cultural groups. 

“Municipal accounting seems to be magic in a box that we are not supposed to know about,” Councilor Tizz Crowley said. “There are funds here and special revenue funds there. What you may be hearing is frustration that we feel in many places.”

Monday’s meeting was part of the council’s ongoing review of city services before they begin reviewing their budgets.

Councilors reviewed budgets for joint Lewiston-Auburn agencies — including the Auburn Lewiston Municipal Airport, LA 911, economic development agencies and Lewiston Auburn Transit — as well as economic and community development.

Regarding the Twin Cities’ Citylink bus system, Councilors and Mayor Jonathan LaBonte called for full accounting of the Lewiston Auburn Transit Committee as well as it’s parent agency, the Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments. That group, AVCOG, is a non-governmental agency that does municipal planning for several towns and cities in the area. In addition to providing staff for the transit committee, it provides staff for the Androscoggin Transportation Resource Center. That group helps plan state road and transit projects in Central Maine.

LaBonte said he wants to make sure state money meant for Lewiston-Auburn is being spent the way residents want it spent.

“I think it’s important that we look at the whole costs and make sure that if we are leveraging federal money, we ought to be budgeting an approving budget with our eyes wide open about total costs,” LaBonte said.

Regarding the Lewiston-Auburn 911 call center, LaBonte said it may be time to check with county dispatch to find out how much they would charge Auburn to answer the city’s 911 calls.

“I’m not saying we walk away from LA 911, but I think that it’s prudent, given the tax environment that we are in,” he said. “If there is an alternate service provider and they have no choice under state law but to offer us a proposal. At the very least, we should tell them to have it to us in a reasonable time frame.”

Councilors reviewed budget requests from the city departments under the Public Administration functions at the Feb. 24 meeting. Those departments include Finance, City Clerk, computers, Assessing, Human Resources and Health and Social services.

They are scheduled to review several budgets at the March 24 meeting. Those include Public Works, Engineering, Parks, Recreation, the City Manger, Mayor and City Council budgets and proposed spending plans for the Water and Sewer Districts, county tax requests, legal spending, workers compensation and the city’s special fund and enterprise funds. LaBonte said there’s a chance councilors can meet at least once more this month at a March 31 workshop meeting.

Deschene is expected to present his draft budget to councilors sometime in April, with a councilors adopting a final budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year sometime in May.

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