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Preliminary budget proposal would add 78 cents to tax rate

May 16, 2017
BERLIN At a City Council work session last Monday, May 8, the City Manager broke down the fiscal 2018 budget that will be presented to the public on May 24 at City Hall. The projected budget is $35.5 million. The original proposed tax rate increase was at $4.59, but has been decreased to 78 cents.

The council asked the school district to reduce its budget by $900,000 using a combination of cuts, revenue increases and surplus and Bryan Lamirande, School Business Administrator, reported to the council that the schools "have surpassed the goal." The school is returning $380,563 to the City's General Fund that amount accounts for 1.75 percent of this years' budget.

"The schools have done an admirable job," said Mayor Paul Grenier.

He added that he is "thoroughly impressed by the work done."

City Manager James Wheeler outlined the major cuts:

Consolidating the code/housing and fire station clerk positions would save $13,020. Wheeler said that "there is a lot going on in housing at this time" and recommended combining the positions. This would lessen janitorial services.

A total of $104,110 of capital improvement projects will not be spent, and Grenier pointed out that in order to move those funds into the budget, there would have to be a two-thirds majority vote.

Wheeler said he "retained funds where he thought the project was necessary" and moved $262,960 of segregated funds to the undesignated fund balance. Councilor Lucie Remillard asked for list of the cuts.

Wheeler presented an additional cut of $135,000, including a $90,000 reduction from the Public Works Department for equipment.

He proposed to cut $28,500 from the general fund subsidy to the airport. The Airport Authority plans to reduce personal costs and run the airport using generated fuel sales and "other income." A timber harvest is being considered. Full time positions will be changed to part time to eliminate health benefits and retirement costs.

Administration fees to the sewer fund are proposed to increase from $99,000 to $212,000 to pay for "actual" sewer costs.

A reduction of $94,569 was made to the fire department. Grenier said that this would not lead to any lay-offs.

There is $60,000 of projected surplus in the police department budget. Holding off on renovations at the police department could provide funds for necessary equipment purchases for the Public Works Department.

An additional $25,000 is being reduced from Solid Waste to decrease tipping fees.

Non-profits and commercial businesses will be charged a fee for Public Works to pick up their waste.

The council unanimously approved the proposed budget as is.

Grenier has hopes to reduce the tax rate even more.

Councilor Michael Rozek noted that any proposed changes can be made to the budget before its final approval on June 19.

Grenier said any more cuts to the budget would require a majority vote, and increases would need a super majority (two-thirds) vote.

The proposed budget will be presented at a public hearing on Wednesday, May 24 at 6:30 p.m. at the City Hall auditorium.

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