AUBURN — The city could use $450,000 in Tax Increment Finance money to offset a proposed 7.3 percent tax increase for schools, Mayor Jonathan LaBonte said Monday.

LaBonte outlined his idea to use the revenue from city economic development TIF districts to fund career-oriented education for Auburn students.

“I’m going to make a suggestion about how we might work together, across the two boards, to target additional investments and find other ways to spend some resources,” LaBonte said.

The idea came at a joint workshop with the School Committee to review the school’s proposed $40.7 million budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1. The budget is up $1.4 million from this fiscal year.

School Committee Chairman Tom Kendall said the schools are asking for $17.6 million in local funding, $17.3 million from property taxes. 

“We want to have an excellent system and develop this so it has a reputation that you can use in attracting new business and new residents,” Kendall said. “They will want to come here, because the first thing they look at is the educational system. If you have a family coming, they ask, ‘How are the schools?’ It’s very hard to get an executive to move to an area if the schools are not highly regarded.”

Advertisement

The spending plan for 2016-17 would lead to a 7.3 percent increase in the city’s property tax rate devoted to schools — about $91 more in property taxes on a $150,000 home.

LaBonte suggested the city split part of that increase with the schools using TIF money. The city would earmark $450,000, letting the schools increase the career training programs and it will reducing the amount from property taxes by $237,000.

“The first step would be for the Auburn (City) Council to direct staff to pull up every Tax Increment Finance District in force right now and if it does not make reference to investment in workforce training we move to amend those districts to allow income from those districts to be available for training,” LaBonte said.

Next, he’d have the City Council and School Committee work out the details how the program would be funded and administered.

Kendall was a fan of the idea.

“Is it appropriate to clap?” he asked.

Advertisement

Several councilors favored the idea, as well.

“It’s exciting for me to see us thinking of how to spend existing revenues in a way that supports the philosophy that education is important to the future of economic development in this community,” Councilor Jim Pross said.

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

That could mean the city could cut departmental budgets to allow the school department budget through.

Councilor Leroy Walker said he wasn’t sure about the school’s overall budget. He said his decision to support it or not would wait until City Manager Howard Kroll presented his proposed budget April 11.

“I want to see how the manager is going to lose, as far as people, or how we will have to change departments,” Walker said. “The people that I’ve heard from would prefer we have zero increase.”

Auburn voters will go to the polls June 14 to adopt the school budget, the same day as the state primary election. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m.

[email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.