AUBURN — Councilors signaled Monday night that they plan to keep city budgets on a tight line, limiting both municipal and school spending to a strict 1.8 percent increase.

Councilors heard budget presentations from both School Superintendent Katy Grondin and acting City Manager Howard Kroll at a special workshop meeting Monday night.

Kroll’s budget called for $38.5 million in spending, a 1.79 percent increase for fiscal year 2015-16 compared to the current budget.

Grondin’s budget called for $39.9 million, a 4.6 percent increase compared to the current budget.

That would push city spending up about 3.2 percent for combined city-school services — about $78.5 million.

Councilor Tizz Crowley praised Kroll for keeping city spending level and said 1.8 percent was not a guideline.

“I was pretty clear that it’s overall, it’s period,” she said. “I will hold each department to that line number. Efficient departments should not be punished for being efficient, when they’ve had to cut to the bones.”

Grondin said school officials will need to cut another $1.3 million from their budget to keep under the council’s line.

“It’s going to be very, very challenging,” she said.

School Committee members Bonnie Hayes and Tom Kendall both pointed out that their committee has not had a chance to work on the budget and make cuts. Their work begins at 6 p.m. Wednesday with a workshop meeting in Auburn Hall.

Grondin said her budget was made more difficult by $1.7 million worth of factors beyond her control. Those include $665,000 in negotiated union salary increases and $160,000 in additional health care costs.

“We cannot flat-fund salaries every year,” she said. “People need wage increases based on contracts.”

Special education costs increased another $875,000, as well.

“As you can see, there is no additional costs for new programming,” Grondin said. “There are no added positions. This is just to maintain the high-quality level of education you supported last year.”

Kroll said the city’s budget was hampered by about $570,000 in fixed costs — including $95,388 more to Androscoggin County, $105,000 for trash tipping fees and solid waste costs, $33,382 to the Lewiston-Auburn 911 Emergency Communications Center and $245,000 to the Maine State Retirement System. Another $90,000 of debt service went to pay for the city’s new firetruck.

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