After two years of decreased city budgets, City Manager Joe Slocum said he couldn’t do it again. The draft 2010-11 budget he presented to the City Council shows an overall increase of $297,000, or 3.7 percent from the 2009-10 budget.

In his annual budget message, Slocum anticipated $32,739 in additional revenues in the coming year, which he said would bring the city property tax increase down to $264,221.

Slocum’s budget cut $200,000 from department, committee and board requests, and benefited from competitive bidding in some areas, including some insurance costs. Salaries were up across the board for city employees, who got 3 percent cost-of-living increases.

The city manager said state revenue-sharing was down $250,000 from last year — a figure that he lamented could not be absorbed by cuts elsewhere in the budget.

Slocum devoted a full third of his budget message — the first page of the three-page report — to his recommendation that terms for city councilors be extended to three years.

“It’s the number-one thing that keeps coming back to me all the time,” he said. “It’s a constant. I can never get past it.”

Slocum noted that the period from November to June is often consumed with the budget, while during the months of July through October, the Council must contend with distractions related to the upcoming elections.

“At budget time it would serve us to have more veterans. Not many organizations have their least-experienced people running them,” he said, adding that he has no question about councilors’ commitment to the task.

Some expenses in Slocum’s draft budget, including road repairs, were kept at the same levels as last year, despite the possibility that they could cost more. Slocum said his goal was to keep expenses close to last year’s budget. If the price of asphalt goes up, he said, the city might not do as many road repairs in the coming year.

Expenses that didn’t appear in last year’s budget include a $300,000 line listed as “to be determined.” Slocum said he had a number of possible projects in mind, including repairing downtown sidewalks and networking computers in City Hall.

Another new expense would be the hiring of an economic development director. The City Council previously approved $100,000 for all expenses related to the position. In Slocum’s budget, the director would get a $57,000 salary. The budget includes an additional $10,000 in expenses related to the position.

The draft budget also includes $25,000 in the event that Belfast opts to join Main Street Maine, a statewide program focusing on downtowns as economic development engines.

Members of the City Council have agreed in recent months that Belfast needs something to happen on the economic development front, but as Slocum noted in his budget message, opinions have differed on whether the city should invest money during hard times or minimize expenses to keep the tax rate low.

“I think everyone understands that the economy needs a boost and that times are tight,” he said, “The question is, how do we respond to that?”

The answer he offered in his budget message reflected the realpolitik of municipal representative government.

“The choices ahead are not about who is right,” he said, “but rather where the majority of hard-deliberated Council votes will fall.”