AUBURN — It makes sense for the city to go on a debt diet this year, leaving some room to build a new high school in the coming years, according to interim City Manager Howard Kroll.

Kroll presented his capital improvements budget to councilors Monday, calling for spending roughly one-third of the amount for projects that departments had requested. He’s proposing adding $5.7 million in new borrowing for the city and the schools. The city has about $55 million in bonded debt, he said.

“If we are retiring $8 million in debt each year, and I’m bonding $5.5 million, that means I’m retiring $2.5 million each year,” Kroll said. “So within five or six years, our debt will be below $40 million, and that puts us into a position where we will be a little more healthy when it comes to a major capital project.”

And Kroll knows there’s a big potential capital project looming in the next several years — replacing Edward Little High School.

“It’s on the horizon, and I’d much rather have the city in a position so that when that time comes, we are all on the same page,” Kroll said. “I don’t want that discussion to be a city-versus-school discussion. It could be the opportunity of a lifetime — the kids deserve it, and I think this is the best way to deal with it.”

Councilors are reviewing Kroll’s proposed budget for the 2015-16 fiscal year. His plan calls for $38.5 million in spending, a 1.79 percent increase for fiscal year 2015-16, compared to this fiscal year. That’s under a 1.8 percent city spending limit councilors have said they plan on enforcing.


The proposed school budget calls 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.

Kroll said his plans for capital spending won’t have an impact on the budget this year but would reduce overall debt and lower debt payments beginning in 2017.

Overall, Kroll recommended councilors borrow $5.7 million for projects. That would be enough for heating and mechanical system upgrades at the Center Street fire station, masonry work at the Auburn Public Library, limited road reconstruction and sidewalk repairs around the city and finishing a baseball field renovation at Pettengill Park. It would also pay to replace a front-end loader, a bucket loader, a one-ton truck and an excavator and tractor for the Public Services department. It would also borrow $50,000 to get a matching federal grant for the Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport.

But Kroll’s list does away with $14.7 million in projects and purchases, including almost $5 million in paving and sidewalk work, firetruck replacement and gear, police vehicle replacement and planning and engineering work for future road projects.

Kroll would also give the School Department $1.02 million for projects, not the $6.2 million it requested.

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