Belfast officials prepare to vote on proposed $8.6 million 2014-2015 budget
Belfast — Belfast residents can expect their property taxes to increase 8 percent if councilors pass the proposed $8.6 million 2014-2015 budget in early July.
Councilors have now concluded a number of budget workshops and the final figure will go to a public hearing Thursday, June 26, before a vote on the budget is held during a July 1 council meeting.
As proposed, the 2014-2015 budget totals $8,667,958, which will increase the city's mill rate from 20.8 to 21.91, meaning a resident with a property valued at $100,000 will pay an additional $111 on their tax bill.
City Manager Joseph Slocum proposed an initial budget of $8.5 million, which represented a 7 percent increase to property taxpayers. However, in a revised budget message to property taxpayers, Slocum pointed out the major factors that are causing the increase.
The major contributors to the budget increase are health insurance costs, which jumped by $174,000 due to a rate increase, new employees and a shortfall of between $50,000 and $55,000 in last year's budget; an increase of $96,000 in the police department with the addition of two new positions; $32,000 for a new full-time position for the Belfast Ambulance Service; a water bill rate increase of $29,000; and $29,000 for retirement.
Slocum indicated that reduced state revenues, which has decreased steadily from $940,403 in 2008 to $335,269 for the 2014-2015 fiscal year have contributed to property taxes increasing. He also noted that the city's surplus funds that were used in the past to offset property tax increases have declined from more than $4,000,000 in 2008 to approximately $2,200,000 today.
If the budget is approved, 29.4 percent of every dollar paid in property taxes will go to the city, 61.9 percent will go to RSU 20 and 8.7 percent will go to the county.
According to numbers provided by Slocum, over a seven year period between 2007 and 2014, the city's net property tax change is 10.25 percent, or 1.46 percent each year. The property net property tax dollar change is $434,064 or an average of $62,000 per year.
When he was working on the proposed budget, Slocum stated it was unrealistic for the city to present a zero-percent increase budget and maintain the level of services that residents expect.
“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," he previously said.
The public hearing on the proposed $8.6 million 2014-2015 budget is scheduled for Thursday, June 26 at 7 p.m. in the council chambers of City Hall.