Belfast City Manager proposing $8.5 million 2014-2015 budget

By Ben Holbrook | Apr 30, 2014
Source: File Image

Belfast — Belfast's City Manager is proposing a 2014-2015 budget of $8.5 million, an increase of 7 percent over the current year budget.

Last year, councilors approved an $8,136,694 budget, which was offset by non-property tax revenue in the amount of $4,060,649. This year, City Manager Joseph Slocum is proposing an $8,507,064 budget to be offset by anticipated revenues of $4,144,680.

The budget represents a net increase to property tax payers of $286,339, or 0.4 mils. That means a tax payer who owns a home valued at $100,000 would pay an additional $40 on their tax bill.

"The budget...is not flat as it was last year. I do not think we can meet the expectations of this community without seeing an increase in spending this year. Materials, services and benefits all cost more; required procedures cost more; repairs cost more; and where demand is up some departments need some enhancement in order to meet those increasing needs," Slocum states.

Slocum notes in his 27-page budget document that there are no cost-of-living increases for city employees and that he asked department heads not to include such increases in their budgets until union negotiations are settled.

He also points out that he is not paying attention to the school budget, which as proposed would increase local assessments in Belfast by more than 7 percent, because of the ongoing withdrawal process, which could potentially provide property tax relief in the future.

“The city can't beat itself up over the increasing impact the school system is having on the property taxes,” Slocum writes. “City council is doing what can be done by actively pursuing measured steps to get answers that will guide the community's future course.”

Slocum points out in his budget message that the original budget he was planning to send to the council would have increased the tax bill by $463,000 — an 11-percent increase — but decided he could not propose a double-digit percentage increase.

Slocum attributed the increases in the budget to higher social security and medicare costs, which increased $20,000; state retirement, which increased $20,000; and health insurance costs that increased $168,000.

The higher cost of health insurance was attributed to a 14.3-percent increase in the city's premiums, Slocum indicates in his budget. He said the city also under-budgeted health insurance in the 2013-2014 budget.

Finally, the increased health insurance costs also include insurance for a new sergeant's position at the police department and the restoration of a full-time position.

The police department budget is increasing $65,000 to include an additional sergeant position. Slocum said due to the department's workload, Police Chief Mike McFadden requested two additional daytime sergeants. However, Slocum said he only included funding for one of the positions and it will be up to council members to decide whether funding should be included for the second position.

Slocum also noted that he will provide office support for the department through a floater position in his office at City Hall.

In terms of capital projects, Slocum said the city has reached the point where it can no longer set aside money to put in capital reserves and fund new projects at the same time. Instead, he is proposing putting more emphasis on maintaining the infrastructure the city now has, such as insulating the Belfast Free Library.

“What this means is that there are and will be fewer dollars available from year to year to do something we have not done before, like build more new water fountains, add more bathrooms or fund some new initiatives,” Slocum writes.

During an interview Tuesday, April 29, Slocum said he believes the budget represents a figure that most people in the city can support.

"I believe this budget meets the expectations of the majority of the community," he said.

City Manager

Wages increased by $5,658 due to changing the floater position from a 30 hour work week to a 40 hour work week.

Legal Expense

This line item increased by $5,000.

Finance

Wages increased $2,493; supplies increased $1,000; miscellaneous expenses increased $500; and the audit line item increased $500.

Assessing

Wages increased $3,057 due to upgrading the assistant to assessor position because of an increased work load.

Clerk

Wages decreased $2,093 due to the new deputy clerk starting at a lower beginning pay rate. Office equipment reserve also decreased by $500 because of sufficient existing reserve levels.

Building Maintenance

Wages increased $998; electricity increased $500; and heating fuel increased $1,000.

Elections

Wages decreased by $500 because there is no presidential election in the coming year.

Employee benefits

Social security increased $20,173; retirement increased $20,000 due to an increase in the Maine State Retirement rate; Group Life Insurance increased $1,000; and health insurance increased $168,577 due to a 14.3-percent increase in premiums with an additional 10-percent increase possible beginning Jan. 1, 2015.

Boathouse

Contract supervisor increased $1,200 due to a full year contract.

Fire Department

Wages increased $3,790 due to the number of calls personnel responded to; overtime increased $4,000 for the hourly wage firefighter; heating fuel increased $1,500; hose increased $500; and vehicle maintenance increased $1,000.

Police Department

Wages increased $43,113 due to a new sergeant position; overtime increased $5,000; supplies increased $1,300; electricity increased $1,500; heating fuel increased $1,000; building maintenance increased $1,000; mileage increased $7,048. Slocum notes this line item may be able to be cut further because it includes training and certification for two officers.

Uniforms increased $2,400 but may also be able to be cut down because the figure represents a cost for two additional officers.

Gas and oil also increased $3,000.

Street Lights

Downtown lights increased by $1,760.

Cable Television

Supplies/expense increased by $2,400 to pay for new indexing system.

Insurance

Property/fleet decreased by $1,615 and unemployment increased by $1,000.

Ambulance

Wages increased by $5,605 due to the number of calls and step/longevity increases; equipment capital reserve increased $1,574; ambulance collections increased $2,000; and gas and oil increased $2,000.

Animal Control

Wages increased by $1,239 but can be cut by $1,200, Slocum notes, due to a miscalculation for vehicle expense.

Public Works

Wages increased $5,600; parts and tires increased $6,000; and gas and oil increased $10,000.

Transfer Station

Wages increased $4,088 due to an increase in the hourly rate for two 32-hour employees; building maintenance is a new cost at $4,000; tipping and transit fees decreased by $9,635 due to a more efficient operation and fewer trips; and recycling expense decreased $1,226, which is a cost savings.

Roads

Road repair increased $20,000.

General Assistance

Assistance decreased by $10,000.

Social Services

Wages increased by $602.

Parks

Groundskeeping increased $1,000; gas and oil increased $700; pool operations decreased $2,000 through savings on powdered chlorine; park toilet increased $2,200; and park maintenance increased $2,266.

Library

Wages increased $1,504; electricity decreased $500; building maintenance increased $1,500; and book purchases increased $500.

Cemetery

Supplies increased $950; equipment capital reserves increased $3,000; gas and oil increased $500; loam increased $700; tree removal increased $500; and maintenance capital reserve increased $3,000 to reset head stones.

Airport

Maintenance increased $1,000.

Harbor

Harbor floats increased $5,500 for float replacement.

Planning

Wages increased $538; and GIS support increased $2,500.

Council members are scheduled to discuss the budget during workshops on Tuesday, April 29, Thursday, May 1, and Monday, May 5. The work sessions are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall.

 

Comments (2)
Posted by: Laurie Lee Allen | May 06, 2014 10:55

City Council is snatching back that crumb from their sweatshop workers. At last night's Budget Meeting, 5/5, Councilor Mary Mortier stated the transfer station employees, ( 4 yrs. employed as part time- 32 hrs./wk, heavy lifting, stinking dirty/hazardous conditions with out health insurance, sick time, vacation time, holiday pay, below minimum wage under Washington State standards), will get a dollar more an hour in the new budget. These poor men will get health insurance ONLY when the the feds force them to do it in 1/2016. $32 a week before taxes. Humanity abuse enforced by denying 3 hours a week.

Steve Boguen, Cemetery Superman, also pleas for wage increase for more sweatshop conditions for the returning same dedicated seasonal men, 9 yrs. and counting. receiving zero wage increases since. Also being paid below minimum wage in many states and without benefits. Steve, stopped receiving increases 10 years ago, a 35 year stellar City employee. Is this true for Bob Richards, DPW? Seems there are other ways to compensate an employee after 25 years of servitude.

The humanity abuse with premeditated slaughter by water to residents and WCGH. Five inches fell in one hour in Fl. followed by 15 inches more in 24 hours. Those 5 inches from at least one square mile of impervious ground, all forcing to the 4 ft culvert into Seaview Terrace private property illegally and unethically, like a water slide. The volume so great the culvert will back up immediately- wild rapids through Seaview. The 72? yr. young woman, beloved Becky @ 40 Seaview, will never have a chance. Nor any of us. It comes to us from both sides of Rte 1 as well. Goodbye Rte 1. From Seaview down into the sunken entrance of Waldo County General Hospital, which also has chambers underground busting with runoff flow from the "little stream" in my yard. Fahey St and Huntress Ave, Huntress Gardens will be under severe threat too. It is forced to us on the sides as well, north side from Wight St, MidCoast Mental Health and WCGH Annex on the south side from Rte 1 N&S and beyond.

City Manager refuses to form a mitigation plan with FEMA, refuses to include us into the Northport Ave TIF and begin immediate infrastructure, City Council supporting slaughter. Budgeting instead for funding to improve and build City owned buildings,equipment, airport, recreation...

Using  "no ceiling" fee tactics to avoid providing an accounting of their 4 year hidden misspending that will put residents in shock and rage. Please sign my petition for this accounting.

City Council Mike Hurley is promoting this Happy Dance video as we are drowning? Again I reached out to Council to sound the alarm and class action lawsuits before we're destroyed, drowning with possible death. The hospital will also be devastated. Here is the response from City Councilor Mike Hurley (Ignoring the 5 inch immediate impact which is becoming a regular occurrence. And it is like the grand canyon pouring into a 4 foot opening. Slaughter by water premeditated by Belfast Planning, City Manager, City Council, City Attorney, DEP, they are the problem.)

Email dated 5/2/14.

Hi Laurie...I know you believe this all fervently, but it's simply not possible. A backed up culvert on a very small stream overflowing does not mean you live at the bottom of the grand canyon. You live on a slightly tilted table. Would we get 20" of rain, it would not all head your way. Much of it would find new ways to head down hill and be through yards, down roads, etc. And yes... DOWN YOUR LITTLE STREAM. THE PROBLEM ISN'T THE STREAM. The problem is the 20" of rain. And that would be a big problem everywhere. Mike

IT WAS NEVER A STREAM! CITY HALL ILLEGALLY FORCES SLAUGHTER TO PRIVATE PROPERTY. NO ROW, NO EASEMENTS, A FLOOD PLAIN, FLOOD ZONE!



Posted by: Laurie Lee Allen | May 03, 2014 09:22

In the budget meetings, 4 year City employees at the transfer station have been receiving sweatshop pay, no benefits period- no insurance, no holiday pay, no sick pay, no vacation pay, keeping them at 32 hours, 3 hours short of benefits. The conditions are nasty and physical, those 2 men bailed 2.5 million pounds of stinking garbage in the cold and the heat, received a death threat as stated by a resident in open to public at a City Council meeting (no comment, swept under the rug by City Hall), and the reward? City Manager states he will boost their pay from $9.50 & $9.90 an hour to $10.60 an hour. And in January 2016 he will be forced by law to give them insurance benefits only. Four years they have been pleading with City Hall to make them full time. City Council and City Manager have denied. Councilor Mike Hurley knows they can no longer look the other way. Auntiebully will hit the podium. He tells Joe Slocum, City Manager, that they have to finally put them on full-time, Mayor Ash and Hurley snickering at Hurley's joke about the mother, a woman who began the food pantry, has helped many, is disabled but comes to Council meetings to plead for a homeless shelter, and this is the respect she gets. ZERO. Thanks for the crumb Councilor Mike Hurley. Be Happy?

Chief McFadden begging for a buck to protect us. DPW Bob Richards stating roads and infrastructure are in such disrepair, it will take a least one million dollars to get caught up. Not going to happen, just going to get worse. Instead, talk of insulating and improving City owned buildings or building new ones. Councilor Eric Sanders in a previous meeting said just float a bond to pay for that.... City Manager states he is not dealing with school tax increase, no talk of need for new High School in future, not his job? Or not his concern!

Belfast City Manager and Belfast City Council are misspending our property tax dollars. They refuse to provide a spread sheet for their spending which will be an “About Face, Come to Arms” call for united resident action. Extorting fees for public documents/accounting that benefit public awareness in government spending is corrupt. The City Manager wants me to pay $130 up front, then $15 an hour with no ceiling of billable hours, a history of tail chasing and feigned difficulties in providing final approved site plans, zoning conditions, drainage infrastructure maps and City Work Orders for heavy equipment. I have been unable to get those basic documents, 3 years and counting, being told they do not exist or that I have been given these documents and am apparently too stupid to know how to read them. Yet, they refuse to allow a trustworthy official validate the documents. City Council refuses to validate as well. City Manager had the audacity to spread a mess on the floor at the 4/1/14 City Council meeting, claiming he spent 19 hours to personally gather the same documents above. Clearly, all can see, that mess was meant to confuse and deceive, the documents are not there. I've spent hours and hours at City Hall, under supervision and intimidation tactics at the Planning Office counter, pouring through each sheet, in each file, never to find the document. Returning the following the day, unannounced, many of those documents were suddenly in the file. Fearing the return of the City Planner, I begged for a copy of a few documents that prove the corruption. It takes along time to get the public to see what they do not want to see. I am patiently waiting for you.

Please, come sign the petition, hidden funds are on fire and residents are getting burnt.



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Ben Holbrook
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Ben Holbrook is a reporter for The Republican Journal covering general news.

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