AUBURN — After weeks of discussion — and a last-minute unexpected revenue gap — the City Council will vote Monday on next year’s $86.7 million budget. 

The budget will need five affirmative votes from the council during two readings in order to pass. 

The fiscal 2018-19 budget represents a 3.8 percent increase from this year, with the municipal budget up $1.3 million, and school spending up $1.9 million. The proposed budget would result in a property tax increase of about 3 percent, adding 69 cents to the tax rate.

The property tax rate would rise to $23.68 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. A home valued at $150,000 would pay $104 more next year.  

Leading up to the final weeks of budget meetings, city officials were given an unexpected challenge. 

In May, a $900,000 assessing error was found just days before the City Council was set to vote on the $43.6 million school budget, putting urgency into the subsequent budget meetings. Each city department was asked to find savings in their budget proposals for next year. 

The revenue shortfall, based on the city assessor double-counting a $900,000 tax increment financing account, also impacted this year’s budget. 

Leading up to the first reading Monday, City Manager Peter Crichton and Mayor Jason Levesque said they are pleased with the final budget product, given the difficulty this year. 

The final budget workshop this week went until 10:30 p.m. 

“We’ve been going item by item, almost too much maybe,” Levesque said. “But it’s part education, and part out of respect for tax dollars — making sure they’re spent effectively and we’re asking hard questions.” 

Capital Improvement

Much of the final budget discussions centered on next year’s Capital Improvement Plan, $8.6 million of which will be bonded. 

The meeting Monday also serves as a public hearing and first reading for the Capital Improvement Plan, which is the city’s capital purchases of equipment, vehicles or other projects. 

Notable items bonded in next year’s proposed CIP are $206,000 toward New Auburn Village Center revitalization; $800,000 for purchasing all city street lights and converting to LED; $125,000 for event flooring at Norway Savings Bank Arena; $100,000 for police station improvements; $1.7 million in public services road projects; $100,000 for a municipal beach study; $410,000 for seven plow trucks; $500,000 for a public services warm storage building; and $1.6 million in school department projects. 

The first and final readings on the CIP budget and bonds also require five affirmative votes from the council in order to pass. 

Marijuana

Prior to the regular meeting Monday at 7 p.m., a 5:30 p.m. workshop will discuss a possible retail marijuana moratorium in Auburn. 

Since February, a marijuana work group in Auburn has been meeting regularly to consider the local impacts of recreational adult use marijuana. 

According to Crichton’s memo to the council, Monday’s workshop is to determine the action that the City Council will need to take regarding retail and medical retail “storefront” operations, especially as the city has had four medical retail storefronts begin operations recently. 

The work group is recommending that a moratorium ordinance be enacted “to allow the Legislature and involved state agencies to finalize the statutory and rule amendments.”

Dozens of municipalities have passed similar moratoriums in response to the lengthy — and at times confusing — process toward legal marijuana in Maine following the successful 2016 referendum. 

But in Auburn, city officials have wrestled with a budding medical growing industry and new retail storefronts. 

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