Portland budgets scheduled for City Council hearings

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PORTLAND — City Council Finance Committee discussions on the proposed $236 million municipal budget continue this week, and two elements of spending are now approaching full council review.

At 2 p.m. Thursday, April 14, the committee, led by Councilor Nick Mavodones, will discuss the city Health and Human Services Department portion of the fiscal 2017 municipal budget, including a proposal to shift health-care services from the India Street Public Health Center to the Portland Community Health Center at 180 Park St.

At 7 p.m. April 21, the Finance Committee will hold a public hearing on the municipal budget.

By a unanimous vote April 7, the Finance Committee forwarded the $103.6 million education budget to the entire council. The education budget will be the subject of a 5 p.m. council workshop on April 25, followed by a 7 p.m. first reading and public hearing at City Hall.

Also on April 25, councilors will hold a hearing and vote on capital improvements bonding of more than $27.5 million. The plans for municipal and sewer projects and equipment were presented in an April 4 first reading without public comment.

If passed as presented (by councilors and at at May 10 referendum), the education budget would add 21 cents per $1,000 of assessed value to the current tax rate of $20.63.

The entire budget of municipal and education spending, and the city obligation for Cumberland County operations, could add 47 cents  per $1,000 of assessed value, making the fiscal year 2017 tax rate $21.10.

The CIP budget, with about $12.9 million in new municipal bonds for $15.2 million in spending, would not affect the tax rate. The sewer bonds are repaid largely through user fees.

To augment the municipal CIP plan, which also includes capital spending for schools, City Manager Jon Jennings and Finance Director Brendan O’Connell assigned more than $770,000 unspent in prior CIP plans in 2005, 2009, 2014 and last year.

Jennings has said his municipal CIP plan focuses on basic city functions, including $2.9 million for street paving and rehabilitation and $500,000 for sidewalk improvements.

The city will also bond $800,000 for railroad “quiet zone” work, specifically the installation of a “quad gate” at the Allen Avenue railroad crossing.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.