AUBURN — The City Council voted 5-2 Monday to approve a $41.7 million budget, but not without rekindling a debate over Fire Department overtime expenses and additional EMS staff. 

The vote came two weeks after debate over the fire and EMS budgets led to a 2-3 vote in first reading. Along with the 2017-18 school budget approved by voters last week, the entire budget stands at $83.4 million. 

According to City Manager Peter Crichton’s latest memo to the council, the 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.

LaBonte reminded residents that any additional state aid received by the School Department would go to offset the property tax rate. 

No one from the public spoke during the hearing. 

Three EMS firefighters and an EMS coordinator position were added to the proposed budget last month, but during the first reading a number of councilors disagreed with the need and last-minute nature of the decision.

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The debate has centered on continually high overtime costs within the Fire Department, and how it should be addressed.

Crichton has said the additional full-time staff will provide relief. 

Councilor Andrew Titus, the most outspoken against the measure, made a last-minute motion to cut $170,000 — the cost of the positions — from the Fire Department’s budget, but didn’t receive any support. 

Most agreed that, while concerned for the continuing overtime costs, the council should give Crichton and fire officials time to address the issue together.

Crichton said $105,000 in anticipated overtime expenses was removed from the budget because of the additional staff. 

“It’s ridiculous we have to hire new positions to deal with overtime,” Titus said during the meeting, adding that the department will be “overrun” again this year. 

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Titus and Councilor David Young voted against the 2017-18 budget. 

“I have concern for adding (the) positions, but we need to give our new city manager a chance to see what he can do,” Councilor Bob Stone said. 

Crichton said he believes the overtime is not being driven by EMS, but by current labor contracts. 

On Monday, Mayor Jonathan LaBonte welcomed Adam Lee, who was elected last week for the vacant Ward 4 City Council seat. But that wasn’t the only new face.

The council also confirmed Crichton’s choice for assistant city manager, Denise Clavette, who will start July 24. Clavette is the economic development director in Yarmouth, but has also run the Parks & Recreation Department in Portland, and held an economic development role for Brunswick. 

In introducing Clavette to the council Monday, Crichton said she’s “very experienced in municipal government.”

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“I’m delighted she’s here,” he said.  

Clavette said she grew up in a very small town outside Fort Kent, where her father was involved in municipal government for a long time.

“My commitment to public service stems from that,” she said, adding that she’s worked in municipal government since graduating from college. 

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