LEWISTON — It was a matter of dimes and pennies Thursday night as city councilors struggled to trim a bit more from their fiscal year 2014-15 budget.

Councilors finished a special workshop meeting with a municipal budget that calls for 12 cents more per $1,000 of value on the city tax rate — about $18 for a $150,000 home.

It’s down significantly from the 66-cent tax rate increase they started with in March. Finance Director Heather Hunter said councilors would need to trim another $225,708 from the city budget to get rid of that 12-cent increase and keep the tax rate unchanged compared to the current year.

Combined with a 15-cent per $1,000 of value tax rate increase for Lewiston schools, the tax rate for next year would go up by 27 cents — about $40.50 on a $150,000 home.

On Thursday, councilors considered the city budget cuts they’ve already agreed to — including eliminating vacant positions, reduced spending for joint agencies and moving some general fund spending into grants. All told, councilors had reached a consensus agreement on $948,093 in budget reductions so far that would increase the tax rate only 16 cents per $1,000 of property value.

Next, they began looking other places to trim. An idea to save $3,500 by not having a staff person control the video cameras during City Council meetings was turned down, while $130,000 for a sidewalk plow was kept in the budget.

Councilors had already reduced the Lewiston Public Library’s new materials budget by $22,000 and Thursday they cut another $18,000 with an understanding the library’s board of directors would cover that cut with its endowment fund.

In its place, councilors agreed to fund a $42,738 library technician position that Director Rick Speer said is very important to the library’s summer reading program and after-school homework programs.

City Administrator Ed Barrett said the budget cuts concerned him. For example, the operating budget has little room to replace equipment or to do basic maintenance and paving work around the city. Most of that work is paid with borrowing or with the city’s savings.

“Rather then saying that I don’t like the $5,000 you took out of the budget here, let me say that there are bigger-picture concerns I have,” Barrett said. “It is a matter of balancing how to get through this time without doing too much harm and still having a little money to put toward things that can help move the community forward.”

Members of the city’s senior citizens group came to protest a $1,700 cut to its program, reducing their office coordinator position from a 19.5 hours per week to 15.

“She is responsible for all computer work, getting parking stickers for members, ordering supplies and typing our newsletter monthly and signing members up,” said Claire Bilodeau, board secretary of the group. “We need her in the office for the number of hours she is currently working. Cutting her hours would cause a real disruption for our members.”

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