Mary Mortier (I-Belfast)
What portion of the city budget do you think could be cut or reduced?
Today the city of Belfast’s proposed budget for the 2012-2013 tax year or fiscal year of July 1, 2012, to June 30, 2013, is almost flat (+.01 percent), in comparison to the previous year. A property owner receives a property tax bill that indicates the city budget represents 30 percent of the billed taxes due. By comparison, the county budget represents almost 10 percent and the school budget represents a whopping 60 percent of taxes due. During lengthy, intense, public and televised budget reviews over the past five years the City Council has gone through the budget categories line by line and often reviewed a second time.
As I recall, the goal has been to reduce the budget or maintain as flat a budget as possible. They have worked hard through this process to retain and improve services, increase efficiencies and increase economic development growth. As we move forward it will be very important to review the recent reduced revenue areas of interest, state revenue-sharing and state reimbursements and work towards the challenging goal of reducing the budget with those added constraints, while maintaining services, economic development and quality of life.
I believe that the most vulnerable categories in the city budget are "Miscellaneous Promotional" and "Miscellaneous Social Service Agencies." I think our biggest challenge to improve the tax burden we all share is to educate ourselves on the school budgeting process and timeline.
What part of the budget needs to be protected from cuts?
Essential services and broad support of economic development. I also feel that continuing and increasing staff cross-training wherever possible is essential to maintaining needed job skills and services in the most cost-efficient way.
What would you do for those seeking to start businesses and create jobs in the city?
Maintain the excellent teamwork in progress recently between the economic development director, City Planning Office, city manager, Our Town Belfast and the Chamber. Complete the work on making the zoning ordinances as consistent as possible and more user-friendly.
Do you see any opportunities for the city to use energy more efficiently or utilize renewable energy?
The city has ongoing capital projects to improve cost-efficiencies of heating city buildings. Lighting is another area which has been and is being addressed. In the world today we all need to educate ourselves and evaluate the most cost-efficient, planet-friendly options that we can plan and budget
What capital projects do you think the city should be taking on, and are there any projects the city is discussing that you think shouldn’t move forward?
Yes to the Harbor Walk and Downtown and Waterfront Master Plan.
Yes to planned infrastructure maintenance and improvements.
Should the city use surplus to hold the mill rate flat, or should it be replenished?
I believe the city needs to maintain a base level of surplus funds. As of now my comfort level is $200,000; however it’s possible that opinion may evolve as I become more involved in the total budget process and realities.
Do you think you are able to work well with other councilors, or do you feel the public discourse is too contentious?
I believe that my business background, the ability to listen to all sides in a discussion and doing my homework will lead to working well with the whole council, including the mayor and city manager.
A democracy is a participatory form of government; it’s not always neat, clean and simple and tied up with a pretty bow. A democracy lives and breathes on discourse, whether verbal or written. However, respect of and for each other is key to a satisfactory result.
What issues facing the city are you most concerned about, and what would you do to address them?
Employment at all social economic levels. See answer to third question.
What could you do to get people more involved in local government?
Education and communication and transparency. It takes a village…
How important is it to have a Master Plan in place, and what would you do to move that process forward?
The Council, city and several committees have been working on putting the foundation in place for a Downtown and Waterfront Master Plan recently. I believe they are about to present it at a Council meeting. To move it forward, I’d get involved!
How important is tourism to the local economy, and what would you do to encourage more people to visit the city?
Tourism is very important to our economy. I would support Our Town Belfast and the Chamber of Commerce. Support the economic development director and the local businesses and organizations that provide goods, services and attractions that are drawing more and more tourists. Make sure the Harbor Walk project moves along to completion as soon as possible. Continue to promote a very positive attitude about this very special City by the Bay that more and more people fall in love with and want to return to visit again or move to the area.
How big do you think the drug problem in the city of Belfast is, and what could you do as a councilor to address illegal drug use?
Belfast is not immune from substance abuse, including drug problems. Fortunately we do not have drug-related problems in the quantities of larger cities such as Bangor; however, we do have our share, including bath salts.
This is an ongoing challenge that affects us all in some way. We are fortunate to have a Police Department and Sheriff's Department with current and past personnel who have been ahead of the curve on this issue and a school resource officer who is a valuable asset to the team.
I would become more educated on the local issues, encourage avenues of public education, and support our experts and an atmosphere of “zero tolerance.”
Do you support the use of surveillance cameras in the city? Why or why not?
Yes, In certain situations and locations. I would be willing to explore that eventuality, with enough exploration of the issues pro and con. Yes, vandalism is increasing and the police can’t be everywhere 24/7. Technology has become more innovative, user-friendly and affordable. Many local businesses already have cameras.