AUBURN — The City Council received a new-look budget Monday night after departments were asked to find savings in response to a nearly $1 million assessing error found earlier this month. 

City Manager Peter Crichton outlined the cuts, with a total of $629,000 coming from city departments. Another $380,000 was cut from next year’s school budget, before receiving the OK from councilors. 

The new figures were shared with councilors just one week before a first reading on next year’s budget. 

When the error was found, Crichton said city finance staff and department heads worked together to identify savings, and revenue adjustments also helped curb the shortfall. 

In all, the proposed fiscal 2018-19 budget is a 3.14 percent increase from this year. Crichton noted Monday that at the start of the budget process, the increase was slated to be 3.4 percent. 

“A lot of work has been done by the various departments,” he said. 


According to Crichton, the error occurred when the revenue from one of the city’s tax increment financing accounts was double-counted, meaning the business included in the TIF received two tax bills for $900,000 instead of one. Both the city and the business subsequently realized the error before the business paid the extra bill.

Following the error, Crichton said City Assessor Karen Scammon is still employed with the city, and “has been working with me, our team, and Maine Revenue Services to verify there are no other assessing problems and to ensure that we have the proper checks and balances in place going forward.”

On Monday, Crichton said an official from Maine Revenue Services completed a review of the city’s records and “found no other discrepancies.” 

While next year’s budgets have been crafted with the shortfall in mind, the city must also make up for $900,000 in the current budget year, which ends June 30. 

Crichton said he is looking at department budget reductions, but that he believes the city is “in the position to be able to handle that debt hit.” He said it would result in Auburn not having the normal “surplus we’d normally have.”

The City Council continued its department budget reviews Monday, with a long session on Lewiston-Auburn joint agencies. From the start, Mayor Jason Levesque and most councilors took hard stances on finding savings. 


At one point, Levesque told the L-A Transit Committee, which oversees the Citylink bus system, that “it would be cheaper to give everyone a pass to take an Uber than to run the bus system.”

He told committee representatives that the bus system has “about a year” to identify changes, or it “probably won’t be here in 2020. It’s a failing entity.”

However, councilor Belinda Gerry said she and many others rely on the bus system, and said it doesn’t receive enough funding. 

A presentation from L-A 911 Director Paul LeClair sparked a long debate over the merits of switching the emergency communication system to a digital system — to the tune of $6 million. 

Both L-A 911 and the Lewiston City Council have expressed support for changing the system. Those in favor say the current VHF system limits local emergency radio frequencies, and the new 800 MHz system would expand capabilities.

However, Levesque and several councilors said Auburn could simply not afford the high price tag.


Councilor Andrew Titus called the cost “atrocious.”

But at least one councilor, Leroy Walker, spoke in favor.

“When they (emergency personnel) can’t contact someone, that is shameful on us,” he said. 

Auburn is set to vote Monday, June 4, on the first reading of the fiscal 2018-19 budget and Capital Improvement Plan. 

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