Taxes up, but no layoffs in Portland municipal budget

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PORTLAND — The acting city manager is proposing a more than $200 million municipal budget for fiscal year 2012, up about $4.4 million over the current year’s budget.

The budget proposed by Pat Finnigan includes no layoffs – missing from the budget for the first time in three years – and no large spending increases for programs and services.

“We are at a place where we need to take a breather,” Finnigan said. She said the city’s workforce has been reduced by 10 percent in the past three years.

Although the Portland Public Library Board of Trustees decides how its budget is spent, Finnigan said proposed library funding for 2012 includes money to keep the Riverton Branch open. Last year the library proposed closing Riverton in order to save an estimated $90,000.

There are increases to the Barron Center budget of about $829,000 to pay for renovations and increased medical supply costs, as well as an additional $55,000 to upgrade medical billing files from paper to electronic. The city will also create an online sign-up option for recreation programs and for reserving athletic facilities. The cost of that would be about $30,000.

Finnigan said the city is installing GPS tracking in Public Services vehicles, at a cost of about $70,000. The tracking will allow for better route planning, she said.

The budget brings back a large-item trash pick-up service, although the cost of that was unclear since the program will be implemented in phases, Finnigan said. The cost will depend on how much extra tonnage it generates to ecomaine.

The city was able to increase its revenue, too. Cruise ship revenue is expected to be up $110,000 and the city is also banking on an increase of about $200,000 in building permits and $860,000 from additional patients at the Barron Center.

Finnigan said the city is waiting to see whether the governor’s state budget proposal to slash general assistance funding is approved. If it is, the city will be looking at a loss of about $650,000 in reimbursements.

“We have not made the cut to general assistance in the budget,” Finnigan said. “It is a state-mandated program, so the city should get reimbursed for it.”

The budget would increase taxes on the municipal side 2.2 percent. The proposed school budget is up 1.8 percent, to $91.6 million. Combined, the increase of the proposed budgets is 2 percent, which means the tax rate would be $18.28 per $1,000 assessed property value for homeowners, or an increase of 36 cents over the current mil rate.

The City Council Finance Committee begins its budget deliberations this week. The committee was scheduled to meet Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. and Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall. For a full meeting schedule, go to portlandmaine.gov and select the “Budget” link under “News.”

Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or kbucklin@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katebucklin.

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