Bath council OKs $15.3M city budget

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BATH — The City Council on Wednesday unanimously approved a $15.3 million budget for next year.

The spending plan, unveiled May 21 at a brief public hearing, is up about $770,000 from this year, and will result in a municipal tax hike of 1.4 percent, to $7.9 million.

Factoring in assessments to Regional School Unit 1 ($9.2 million, up 1.45 percent) and Sagadahoc County ($1.7 million, up 0.14 percent), the total city property tax will increase nearly 3 percent, to a levy of $18.7 million.

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

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

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,” City Manager Bill Giroux said last month.

“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 council unanimously granted final 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 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 voted 7-1, with Councilor David Sinclair opposed, on separate motions to set the fiscal year 2015 interest rates for delinquent taxes and sewer bills at 7 percent, the maximum set by the state. Sinclair’s motion for the rates to be reduced to 5 percent was not seconded.

“I think the citizens as a rule do not fall behind on their taxes intentionally,” Sinclair said. “The rule applies equally to those who intend to and those who fall behind for circumstances not entirely within their control.”

The council also unanimously supported final 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 May 20 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 April 15.

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.