2017-05-20 / Front Page

Biddeford initially approves $31.4M municipal budget

Staff Writer

BIDDEFORD — The Biddeford City Council initially approved a proposed $31.4 million municipal budget in a narrow vote on Thursday evening.

The budget — which requires another vote by the council to be finalized — is $100,000 down from a $31.5 million proposal that several residents spoke about in a public hearing on the matter.

City Manager Jim Bennett said the proposed $31.5 million budget, which is more than $2.2 million higher than the current year’s budget, would likely result in tax deductions for those with homes valued at $236,000 or less who qualify for the Homestead Exemption.

Those with homes valued at $211,000 — the median home value in Biddeford — could see tax reductions of $12.29.

The budget is higher than last year’s because of increased capital improvement allocation, about 1.6 million or more than $800,000 more than the current year. Voter-approved bonds, which push the tax rate up 37 cents, or 2.3 percent, also contribute to a higher budget.

In general, the proposed budget projects an overall 47 cents in tax increases.

Some residents weren’t in favor of the increase. Resident Ronald Peaker spoke out against the hike, saying the city needs to reduce its staff to save money.

“You better give it a good amount of thought on getting that mil rate down because the day will come when you can’t raise your unappropriated balance,” he said.

Resident Howard Hanson agreed, saying “the mil rate is just too high in Biddeford.”

Mayor Alan Casavant said it’s time for residents to consider their home’s valuation, rather than the mil rate, when it comes to taxes, since city valuations are going up.

“I think it’s disingenuous to keep harping on the mil rate,” he said. “When you look at the real value of property ... valuation has to be part of the equation. Just harping on the mil rate doesn’t address the issue.”

Councilor Marc Lessard motioned to reduce staff by one person in each department to reduce spending, a motion that was voted down by the council.

A second motion by Lessard to reduce the budget by $100,000 was narrowly approved, although Councilors Laura Seaver, Michael Ready, Norman Belanger and Bob Mills opposed measures to cut staff and personnel funding.

“I agree that the benefit costs are too high. I agree that the wages need to be looked at. I don’t think we can do that yet,” Belanger said. “I won’t support the motion of eliminating someone.”
Another motion made by Ready to increase public safety funding by $50,000 was also defeated.

A second reading of the newly-proposed $31.4 million budget is set for Wednesday at 6 p.m. Bennett will have to decide prior to that date where to make the $100,000 cut from the proposed budget.

A breakdown of the original proposed general municipal budget, except schools, adult education, tax-increment financing, or TIF, funding and county taxes for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1, includes:

  • General Government: $10,773,954
  • Public Safety: $9,806,612
  • Public Works: $4,531,210
  • Public Services: $1,197,725
  • Social and Municipal Services: $711,167
  • Debt Service: $3,000,979
  • Capital Outlays: $1,515,547
  • Total $31,537,575

— Staff Writer Alan Bennett can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 329 or abennett@journaltribune.com.

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