The proposed city budget for fiscal year 2020 will need to be about $1.5 million less for the city council to support it.

Two weeks ago, the city council got its first look at the proposed budget for the next fiscal year, which starts on July 1. That budget – which contained a ‘wish list” for several new positions – was up by 18 percent, an amount city officials said from the outset would not be sought.

At a brief budget meeting last week, City manager Bill Mayo asked what percentage increase would be acceptable to councilors. He said once he had that number in hand, he and department heads could prioritize line items to get the budget to that point. Some assessments, such as those for the county, RSU, and health insurance, are out of the city’s control.

Councilors agreed that a 3 percent increase would be acceptable, but not without some discussion. New tax revenues will be available from the mill in coming years, but not next year; Councilor Kyle Smart said he personally thought a zero percent increase would be best, but  he knew that was not possible.

“Realistically, I’d like to see 1 or 2 percent,” said Smart.

Councilor Shirely Brissette, meanwhile said people she had spoken to about the budget had been tolerant, but they were frustrated that the budget keeps going up. She added that she was overwhelmed and insulted at the amount of the proposed increase in the proposed draft budget.

But other councilors countered that people they had spoken to accepted that budgets almost inevitably go up, and that they saw nothing wrong with the high draft budget – that it was meant to be a working document only, with deep cuts fully anticipated.

Reaching 3 percent may not be all that difficult. City Manager Bill Mayo noted that every $100,000 eliminated from the draft budget would lower the increase by about 1 percent; taking all the sought after extra positions would lower the budget by $700,000 immediately. Councilors appeared to not be opposed to adding new staff, but seemed to lean toward waiting until additional taxes are coming in from the mill.

Additionally, Councilor Stan Peterson suggested that the city look at a bond for paving projects sought in the budget. That could reduce it by about $600,000. And councilors also mulled taking money from reserves for capital equipment purchases, which would lower the amount needed to be raised through taxation further.

While 3 percent is the target, there is a chance that increase could be lower. Councilor David mahan noted that when revenue adjustments were made last year, the budget only ended up rising about 1 percent.

Mayo and department heads will be looking for cuts to make in the budget over the next couple weeks. The council is scheduled to continue its review of the budget at its first meeting in May.