Bath budget avoids tax hike; armory purchase moves forward

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BATH — If the proposed fiscal 2011 budget City Manager Bill Giroux presented Wednesday is the same one the City Council adopts June 9, residents can expect no tax increase for the third year in a row.

Next year’s $13.6 million city budget is down 4.13 percent from the current year. Total property taxes of $15.8 million include 6.4 million in city taxes, down 0.33 percent; 1.5 million in county taxes, down 1.78 percent, and $7.8 million in Regional School Unit 1 taxes, up 0.62 percent.

Bath’s tax rate would remain at $17.20 per $1,000 of property valuation.

According to Giroux’s budget message, avoiding a tax increase required major cuts in operating and capital budgets. Non-tax revenues are down $223,000, or 2.68 percent, according to projections.

“The department heads certainly worked very hard and made tons of concessions,” Giroux said.

He said he does not like avoiding tax increases, “because as a manager who has to think long term about the city’s needs, if we stay at zero too long it really can cause impacts later on. But I really feel like we don’t have any choice, and I’m sure you’ll agree that people just can’t take a tax hit right now.”

Armory purchase

Earlier in the meeting the City Council voted 7-1, with David Sinclair opposed, to borrow up to $175,000 to purchase the former National Guard Armory. The Old Brunswick Road property has been eyed as the possible next home of the Bath Youth Meetinghouse and Skatepark, which is currently run in the former YMCA on Summer Street.

The old Y has mounting capital needs, but the Armory also needs work. Giroux has said early estimates peg abatement of asbestos, mold and lead paint at about $100,000. He said the city has about $600,000 in Brownfield grant funds for such purposes.

The bond proposal will undergo a second council vote in June. Afterward the costs necessary to renovate the building for future uses will be determined. A bond referendum for those renovations could potentially go to voters in November.

Sinclair expressed concern that the city, in borrowing money for the Armory, does not yet have an approved use for the structure.

Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or [email protected].

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.