Bath council to vote on $16.6M city budget

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BATH — Next year’s proposed $16.6 million budget – up about $751,000, or 4.7% from current spending – goes to a City Council vote Wednesday, June 5.

With hikes in non-tax revenues like interest income, revenue sharing and sewer fees offsetting expenditures, the municipal portion of fiscal year 2020 taxes is due to decline 0.42 percent (about $88,000).

That $8.9 million amount, combined with $10.7 million in Regional School Unit 1 taxes (up 1.25 percent) and $1.8 million in Sagadahoc County taxes (up 0.2 percent), produces a total property tax amount for Bath of $21.4 million, an increase of 1.04 percent.

As a result, a home valued at $200,000 would experience an approximately $35 tax increase. Bath, meanwhile, is amid a revaluation; since tax rates are calculated by dividing the tax amount by the new valuation, an increase in town value will result in a reduction in estimated tax rates.

The $11.2 million general fund – the largest portion of Bath’s municipal budget – reflects a 3.1 percent hike, due primarily to increases in salaries, retirement contributions and health insurance. A firefighter/advanced emergency medical technician and an information technology specialist are two new positions, and an additional $25,000 to Patten Free Library will allow it to be open Mondays.

The nearly $943,000 capital fund, up 7.9 percent, covers debt payments on a fire truck and Public Works equipment, along with building studies for Morse High School and the fire and police stations.

The $1.8 million landfill fund has risen 6.1 percent, thanks largely to hikes in recycling costs and capital expenses for gas remediation and immediate covering, and debt payment on a new landfill cell.

A 12 percent increase in the $2.3 million sewer fund largely goes toward the first debt payment on a $9.8 million sewer bond voters approved in 2014.

Bath’s largest non-tax revenue hike comes from state revenue sharing, which the city is budgeting to rise 72.7 percent, to reach $958,000. While the state set aside about 2 percent of its income in fiscal year 2019 for this purpose, Governor Janet Mills’s budget raises that level to 2.5 percent, according to a budget report by city Finance Director Juli Millett.

Were revenue sharing to remain at 2 percent, Bath would have to raise $403,000 in additional taxes, resulting in a 1.91 percent levy increase, she noted.

The June 5 council meeting will be held at City Hall at 6 p.m.

Alex Lear can be reached at 780-9085 or [email protected]. 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.