AUBURN — City councilors and school officials agreed Monday that they need to work together to settle on a fair budget this year — even though it doesn’t always sound like agreement.

“We need to find some additions and subtractions on both sides to get to one simple budget that we can then say is a reasonable budget,” Councilor Bob Stone said Monday night. “I think that’s all anybody can ask for, that the budget be reasonable.”

At issue is a set of financial pressures on the city and School Department.

School Superintendent Katy Grondin presented her proposed budget to councilors, calling for 4.6 percent more spending — some mandated by the state.

Councilors are facing a tight budget ceiling of their own. City ordinance limits Auburn’s budget increases to the Consumer Price Index’ urban calculation, 0.7 percent this year. Councilors will need a five-vote supermajority to let city spending for the combined municipal and school budget go past that level.

Councilors are also facing a dry fund balance — previous councils have used fund balances to pay for services without raising taxes but this group has agreed they won’t do that for the next two years.

Mayor Jonathan LaBonte said the city’s budget ceilings mean the overall budget can’t rise that much. The school budget can go beyond that, but it would mean spending cuts for municipal services.

“But I want to get past this idea that we have two budgets, a city and a school budget,” LaBonte said. “We don’t. We have one budget, for all of Auburn.”

LaBonte said it will mean Grondin and City Manager Howard Kroll working closely to make sure they know what the other has planned. But LaBonte said councilors might have to consider going past the 0.7 percent budget ceiling.

“I’ve heard two city councilors say they want 0.7 percent or death,” LaBonte said. “Everybody else said let’s start at 0.7 percent and understands the pros and cons. The council can negotiate amongst itself and you have three months.”

The discussion came at the tail end of review of the city’s Capital Improvement Plan.

Manager Kroll outlined $5.4 million in borrowing to pay for projects and equipment and said it’s a small amount.

“I can go item by item if you want,” Kroll told councilors. “It’s not a very long list.”

The budget calls for:

• $1.9 million worth of road reclamation, reconstruction and repaving;

• $350,000 in drainage projects; 

• $500,000 matching money for projects shared with the Maine Department of Transportation;

• $320,000 to make the Hasty gymnasium restrooms wheelchair-accessible; and

• $225,000 to replace plow trucks and a sewer main for an ash landfill in Danville.

Kroll said councilors are scheduled to vote on the capital spending budget at the May 2 meeting, and he urged councilors to read the plan and send questions to him for a discussion before that vote.

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