AUBURN — Efforts to add back budget cuts for the Lewiston-Auburn Economic Growth Council and the Citylink bus system failed Monday night as the Auburn City Council approved a $39.8 million spending plan.

But councilors did add back $345,724 initially cut from City Manager Howard Kroll’s budget, created two new city positions and agreed to create a New Auburn farmers market and fix a basketball court in Chestnut Park.

“We’ve done a lot of work, and none of us walked away with everything they wanted,” Councilor Grady Burns said. “But we did our due diligence in this process.”

Councilors voted 7-0 to adopt the final municipal budget for the next fiscal year, set to begin next month.

With that budget and the $40.7 million in education spending approved by voters last week, councilors approved collecting $44.2 million in property taxes — about $1.8 million (4.27 percent) more than the 2015-16 fiscal year ending June 30.

It amounts to a tax rate increase of 96 cents per $1,000 of property value. For a $100,000 home, that will mean a property tax bill increase of $96 compared to last year. For a $150,000 home, it means a $145 increase.

First councilors had to review a list of 11 amendments their members had proposed.

Burns had recommended restoring funding for:

• The growth council;

• The bus system;

• Lewiston-Auburn 911;

• The Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments;

• The Auburn Public Library; and

• The Auburn Fire Department.

Councilor Robert Stone said he had faith that Auburn staff can do everything that the growth council did. He said he also thought Citylink service reductions on Minot Avenue will be minor.

Councilor Andy Titus came down in favor of funding $26,000 in TIF money for AVCOG, saying that the annual road salt and sand deal the group brokers each year is worth it.

Councilors also agreed that the library was worth funding and increased the Fire Department’s budget by $60,000 — about half of what was cut when Kroll’s budget was first released. Kroll said that money will go to fund an assistant for the fire inspector.

Councilors also backed fully funding the 911 system, with the caveat that staff will work with Lewiston to amend the intergovernmental agreement.

“I want it on the record that the city manager and the administrator from Lewiston have to work together to iron out these problems,” Councilor Leroy Walker said. “Are they getting more for the same buck? Are we getting less? It’s up to the manager to figure that out.”

New programs

Councilors called for some new things with this budget, including a full-time staff attorney and a regular grant-writer position.

Councilor Jim Pross said having a city solicitor on duty would ultimately save Auburn money.

“There is an expected cost savings from what we spend now on outside counsel,” Pross said. “I also believe very firmly that having that as a resource in-house will aid operations and create new efficiencies in city government.”

The grant administrator will help the city look for new sources of non-property tax revenues.

Mayor Jonathan LaBonte added an amendment of his own, using $12,000 from the city’s recreation fund to repair a basketball court in Chestnut Park, the green space downtown between Chestnut and Union streets.

“There are three courts there, and we are proposing to make improvements to one court and bring it to a regulation standard,” LaBonte said.

Renovations to other basketball courts could come later, he said.

[email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. 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.