Bath budget would mean nearly 3% tax hike

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BATH — The City Council will vote June 4 on a $15.3 million budget for fiscal year 2015.

The proposed spending plan, discussed at a brief public hearing Wednesday, is up about $770,000 from this year, and would cause a municipal tax hike of 1.4 percent, to $7.9 million.

With assessments to Regional School Unit 1 ($9.2 million, up 1.45 percent) and Sagadahoc County ($1.7 million, up 0.14 percent) factored in, the total city property tax would increase nearly 3 percent, to $18.7 million.

“We were fortunate this year that the school and county were able to come in with reasonable increases,” City Manager Bill Giroux said.

Forty-nine percent of taxes go toward school costs, while 42 percent go to the city and 9 percent the county, according to information provided by the city.

A budget message from the office of Finance Director Juli Millett said operating expenses continue to rise, including the first debt payment for a new street bond, and city and employee insurance.

Non-tax revenues have largely remained flat, according to Millett. Vehicle excise taxes are expected to be up $83,000, or 8.63 percent, offset by a $42,600, or 7.69 percent, drop in state revenue sharing.

That decline is a trend that has continued for six or seven years, “and we get about half of the revenue sharing that we used to get,” Giroux said. “Certainly as those years have gone by it’s made budgets more and more challenging, but we’ve been able to make adjustments to cover that.”

In other business, the City Council unanimously granted first passage to an order to issue general obligation bonds to fund vehicles, equipment and public facility improvements. The borrowing is not to exceed $675,000, with a term of no more than 11 years.

Included among the items proposed to be funded are an ambulance, police vehicle, public works boiler and crew cab, a sidewalk sander/snow blower, and replacement of a Fire Department defibrillator.

The panel also unanimously OK’d first passage of a contract zone for a new hotel at 139 Richardson St. The Shipyard Inn occupies the existing 39-year-old building on the site, formerly a Holiday Inn.

The Planning Board on Tuesday unanimously supported site plan approval for the project, which would see the existing building demolished, and a four-story hotel with 103 rooms built in its place.

The board also unanimously recommended the council grant the contract zone , which developer Bathres LLC needs to facilitate height and setback modifications.

The board had its first look at the project last month.

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

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.