AUBURN — A vote on the 2017-18 budget failed at first reading Monday by a 2-3 vote, after councilors debated a number of last-minute amendments.

The $41.7 million spending plan will now head to a second reading Monday, June 19, when the makeup of the council will be different. But the vote signaled a few sticking points within the budget.

Councilor David Young was absent Monday, but is expected to be present in two weeks.

Adam Lee, who is running unopposed for the vacant Ward 4 council seat on June 13, is scheduled to be sworn in during the June 19 meeting, meaning there will be a full seven-member council for the second reading.

There has not been a full City Council since Ernestine “Tina” Gilbert resigned in December.

No one from the public spoke during the hearing on the budget Monday, but councilors debated a number of amendments, including a lengthy discussion over the late addition of four fire department positions.

Three EMS firefighters and an EMS coordinator position were added to the budget two weeks ago, but a number of councilors disagreed with the need and last-minute nature of the decision.

“I don’t like last-minute things,” Councilor Bob Stone said.

The debate centers on the continually high overtime costs within the Fire Department, and how to address it. City administration argues the additional full-time staff will provide relief.

Councilor Leroy Walker made a motion to eliminate the new positions, which was then amended to eliminating the three EMS staff but keeping the coordinator position. He said the overtime costs at the department are concerning.

“There are too many things here that are way off the mark,” he said.

Councilor Andrew Titus said overtime has been an issue for a long time, but if the city continues to budget for it, “we’re covering up for it.”

“I think it makes sense to add the positions,” said City Manager Peter Crichton, adding that while the labor contract is also causes overtime, new positions will address the issue. He said if the three EMS firefighters are eliminated, overtime funds will have to be added back into the budget.

Ultimately, the amendment to strike the positions failed to get enough votes. It wasn’t the only one.

Councilor Grady Burns proposed the council add funding for the Lewiston-Auburn Transit Committee to bring it to previous funding levels, which also failed to garner enough votes.

According to Crichton’s latest memo to the council, the current proposed municipal, school and county budgets would increase the tax rate by $1.20 to $23.55 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

A home valued at $150,000 would see an annual increase of $189.

Mayor Jonathan Labonte said passing the budget on June 19 does not set the final property tax rate, however. Voters will decide on the school budget June 13, but he said the city could receive additional state education funding, which would go toward property tax relief.

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