AUBURN — Later this month the City Council could increase the annual stipends for elected officials, a move coming just after officials in Lewiston implemented what will be the first significant increase in 30 years.

For Auburn, it would mark the first update to compensation levels since 2005, and officials Monday were in favor of modeling its new stipend levels to those passed in Lewiston.

The Auburn mayor is paid $4,000 annually, while city councilors are paid $1,800 and School Committee members receive $650. Compared to other Maine municipalities, the figures for those on the City Council and School Committee are among the lowest. Planning Board members do not receive any compensation.

Officials on Monday favored moving to Lewiston’s new levels, which increased the mayor’s salary to $7,000, with city councilors and members of the School Committee each receiving $4,000.

The City Council was also in favor of adding a $1,200 stipend for Planning Board members, after Mayor Jason Levesque had initially proposed $750 for most members.

Officials will ultimately decide on the updated compensation at the Nov. 15 meeting. The changes would not go into effect until 2022, under a new slate of elected officials.

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While many are in favor of the changes given today’s costs and the time needed to serve on elected boards, some said they’re concerned for the optics of it. Councilor Belinda Gerry, who is running for reelection, said three councilors and Mayor Levesque could be back on the council next year.

Levesque said raising compensation “is never a popular conversation to have,” but said officials should be at least paid to cover the costs of service. He said he’s had conversations with elected officials outside Maine who “laugh at us” due to the level of compensation.

“I probably spend $4,000 a year at Rolly’s (Diner) on breakfasts with constituents,” he said.

AUBURN READIES FOR VOTE ON ZONING UPDATES 

Also on Monday, the council agreed on last-minute changes to proposed updates to the Comprehensive Plan, which if approved later this month, will set the framework for zoning and housing growth in Auburn.

On Nov. 15, the council will vote on updates to the plan dealing with future land use, which includes recommendations to expand form-based code, reduce the number of zoning districts, and increase density in the majority of residential zones.

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While updates to other sections of the Comprehensive Plan on transportation and recreation have already been approved, the land use section has been more carefully considered due to public concerns over its development implications. The city has held several public informational meetings about the proposals, and the Planning Board recently held a special meeting to consider a final recommendation.

Due to the recent release of a report on Lake Auburn, the Planning Board recommended a change that would lower the density limit in the Lake Auburn watershed from one unit per acre, to one unit per three acres. Previously the plan called for shifting the current density to two units per acre, including in the watershed.

Officials said the Planning Board move is essentially a “placeholder,” given that the Comprehensive Plan is a guiding document, and each zoning rule recommended in the plan must still be separately approved by the City Council. If no action is ultimately taken, the density in the zone would remain the same.

Mayor Jason Levesque said that since 25% of Auburn’s land mass is in the watershed, the change “moves 75% of the plan forward.”

Officials will vote on the Comprehensive Plan updates on Nov. 15.

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