Bath council ratifies $15.9M city budget

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BATH — The City Council on Wednesday unanimously approved a proposed $15.9 million municipal budget for fiscal year 2019.

The panel also gave final passage to a handful of bond ordinances first approved May 16, and approved a bid for revaluation services.

The city budget is down about $133,000, thanks largely to no principal payment being made yet on a 2015 wastewater infrastructure improvement bond. About $120,000 in interest is to be paid, with the first principal-plus-interest payment of about $400,000 due in fiscal year 2020, Finance Director Juli Millett has said.

The $10.85 million general fund portion of the city budget will rise 1.53 percent, the result of small increases in salaries and benefits, which are offset by heat and insurance savings. The capital fund budget, about $873,000, is dropping 1.35 percent, while the $1.7 million landfill fund budget is down 4.58 percent, due to debt retirement.

The $2 million sewer budget is down 7.7 percent, due to the bond payment being delayed, according to Millett.

Since the total budget decrease is in landfill and sewer funding, and fees primarily fund those expenses, overall city taxes are due to rise 0.75 percent, to reach nearly $9 million. Non-tax revenues are about flat.

Factoring in Regional School Unit 1’s assessment to Bath ($10.4 million, up 1.79 percent), and the Sagadahoc County assessment ($1.7 million, down 0.07 percent), Bath’s total property taxes are expected to reach $21.1 million – a 2.48 percent increase.

A tax increase of approximately $110 for a home valued at $200,000 would be the result, according to Millett.

The city comprises 42.5 percent of Bath’s total tax allocation, while RSU 1 makes up 49.3 percent, and Sagadahoc County is 8.2 percent.

Bond ordinances, revaluation

The first ordinance to receive final passage authorizes bonding $1 million to fund wastewater infrastructure improvements. The borrowing supplements a $9.8 million wastewater improvement bond that city voters approved in 2015. The cost of the projects “has increased and now exceeds the costs anticipated” when the original bonding was approved, according to the council order regarding the new borrowing.

The city will borrow the funds through the state’s revolving loan fund, “but they have granted us principal forgiveness on this $1 million, so we will not pay it back,” Millett told the council last month.

The City Council unanimously approved second passage for that borrowing, as well as $283,000 for city vehicles and equipment, and a supplemental appropriation of $165,000.

The $283,000 bond funds financing toward a used animal control van, another police vehicle, an extractor washer/dryer for the fire-rescue department, a 1-ton forestry truck, and a replacement public works loader.

The supplemental amount is not within the fiscal 2019 budget, but it moves Bath’s expenditure limit forward, granting the city leeway if more room is needed next year, according to Millett. The practice dates back to the 1980s.

The council on Wednesday also approved Vision Appraisal’s $220,000 bid to conduct a revaluation for the city next year. The work, which includes conversion to new assessing software and completing an appraisal of Bath Iron Works, is to be paid for through funds already set aside, and others currently budgeted, according to City Assessor Brenda Cummings.

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.