AUBURN — Changes to the city’s spending limit failed narrowly Monday night, but councilors will take it up again later this month.

Auburn Mayor Jonathan LaBonte broke a 3-3 tie and cast the deciding vote on a plan to convert the city’s spending limit into a limit on tax increases.

“This cap was designed to cut spending, and that’s what it should continue to do,” LaBonte said.

Auburn adopted the spending cap in 2007. According to the ordinance, overall city budgeted expenditures cannot increase more than the Consumer Price Index for the previous year unless a majority of councilors vote to override the cap.

According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Urban CPI rate for October 2014 was 1.7 percent.

Lewiston has a similar rule written into its city charter. Lewiston ties any overall budget increase to the Gross Domestic Product price deflator for the previous year. The Consumer Price Index and GDP Deflator are different methods used to determine overall inflation.

The new proposed change would cap the tax commitment. Municipal spending could increase as long as the total amount of taxes the city collects stays level.

LaBonte said that opens the door for user fees to balloon city spending.

“To allow a City Council and staff to avoid a tax cap by creating new user fees and increasing them is just not a road I want to go down,” LaBonte said.

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