Bath budget heads to June 7 City Council vote

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BATH — The City Council is due Wednesday, June 7, to vote on a $15.7 million municipal budget.

A hearing May 17 on next year’s spending plan drew no members of the public, City Manager Bill Giroux said the following day.

Councilors at that meeting also granted unanimous first passage of an ordinance to borrow up to $621,000 to fund several capital improvement items.

Combining municipal, county and school taxes, Bath’s total projected property tax increase for fiscal 2018 is 1.9 percent – an increase of less than $379,000.

“The department heads and the council did a great job on the budget this year,” Giroux said. “… And that may be why there wasn’t any attendance at the public hearing.”

The addition of nearly $151,000 in the municipal budget is due to salary and benefit increases, along with the first bond payment for wastewater system upgrades, a $9.8 million project voters approved in November 2015.

A shift in capital expenses, thanks to the city landfill being paid for through a $3.8 million landfill bond approved by voters last November, is in part offsetting the spending increase.

The general fund could rise $133,000 to reach $10.5 million, while the capital and landfill funds could drop nearly $113,000 and about $103,000 to reach $885,000 and $1.8 million, respectively. The sewer fund could increase nearly $237,000 to reach $2.2 million, reflecting the wastewater system bond.

Of the $15.7 million city budget, $8.7 million could be paid through taxes, an increase of 0.73 percent. Sagadahoc County taxes are $1.7 million, up 0.37 percent, and Regional School Unit 1 taxes could rise 1.81 percent, to reach $10.1 million.

Total property taxes could have risen 2.91 percent. But the city is reducing the real estate allocation to its Wing Farm tax increment financing district, which frees up about $200,000 to put toward reducing taxes, according to city Finance Director Juli Millett. As a result, the tax increase has been shaved to 1.9 percent.

Consequently, Bath’s current tax rate of $21.10 per $1,000 of property valuation would increase to $21.50. A $200,000 home would see an $80 increase, although a home in the Homestead Exemption program could see a reduction of approximately $30, Millett has said.

Also on May 17, the City Council voted unanimously to support an ordinance authorizing borrowing of up to $621,000 to fund several items: a fire chief vehicle, a wood chipper for local cemeteries, a police vehicle, an ambulance, a one-ton truck with a plow for the recreation department, and a dump truck and sweet sweeper for the Public Works Department, according to Millett.

The panel also unanimously granted first passage to an ordinance allowing a supplemental appropriation of $289,000. The supplemental amount is not within the fiscal 2018 budget, but it moves Bath’s expenditure limitation room forward, Millett explained.

Both ordinances will have final votes June 7.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

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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.