LEWISTON — Members of the City Council agreed on one thing Tuesday: that next year’s municipal budget is a compromise. 

The $44.8 million spending plan was approved unanimously by the council after some final changes were made.

Among them was removing $120,000 for the Lewiston-Auburn Economic Growth Council and putting it toward the city’s economic development department. 

Councilor Jim Lysen said the Growth Council does not have any staff, so the City Council made the decision to remove its funding — for now. Officials in Auburn decided last year to remove that city’s share. 

Lysen and other councilors said they were disappointed with the loss. 

“I hope the decision to bring it in-house is a good one,” City Council President Kristen Cloutier said. 

Advertisement

Councilor Isobel Golden added, “I hope it doesn’t mean it’s going away forever. But this budget is a compromise.” 

City Administrator Ed Barrett said next year’s municipal budget represents a 3 percent increase over this year. He said depending on the state Legislature’s final decision regarding the Homestead Exemption, which may be expanded, property taxpayers with a home valued at less than $200,000 could see a small decrease.

If the Homestead Exemption remains the same, he said, taxpayers would see a 2.1 percent increase. The municipal budget represents a 53-cent increase. 

Also added back into the budget by councilors Tuesday was $43,000 for street line painting, which will go toward “piano key” crosswalks at problem intersections. 

Barrett said $272,000 will be added to the general fund’s contingency account to address “anticipated collective bargaining contracts.” The only contract under negotiation is the Fire Department, which has been without a new contract for nearly three years. An executive session was held prior to Tuesday’s special meeting. 

Also maintained in the budget is a part-time library technician position, which the council had previously considered cutting. 

Advertisement

Darby Ray, chairwoman of the Lewiston Public Library, thanked the council for supporting the library, calling it “enormously important for the community.” 

Barrett reminded people of some uncertainty that remains over the budget, especially for state aid to education that may affect the final school budget figures. Voters approved the school budget Tuesday.

Only one person spoke during public comment on the city budget. Mayoral candidate Ron Potvin, a former city councilor in Auburn, said there’s a constant theme each year of expenses going up. He said it’s “not sustainable.” 

He likened the annual increases, and the impact on the taxpayer, to “lava boiling under the surface.”

“Where we’re at now is not acceptable,” he said.

Councilor Michael Lachance said the final budget was a compromise, but he echoed Potvin’s concerns. He said he’s directing staff to look into a way the city can “give back” to the taxpayers, but he didn’t give details.  

Barrett said next year’s budget has been dedicated by city staff to Norm Beauparlant, director of budget/purchasing, who is retiring this year after 43 years of service. Barrett said Beauparlant’s “institutional knowledge will surely be missed.” 

[email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login 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.

filed under: