BELFAST — City councilors on June 15 approved the budget for 2022, which is expected to result in a small reduction in the mill rate, Councilor Mike Hurley said. “Where we’re headed is to a reduced mill rate by a very small amount, which is a heck of a lot better than an increased mill rate by any amount.”

The Assessor’s Office has issued an unofficial estimated mill rate of 23.2, slightly lower than last year’s 23.3 mill rate. The assessor will not finish calculating the tax commitment until sometime in July, so the official mill rate has not been released, City Manager Erin Herbig said.

While the overall budget increased to $11,505,437 from $10,522,588 last year, a rise of 9%, the amount raised from taxes increased to $6,370,751 from $6,180,222 last year, an increase of just 3.1%. Estimated revenues increased to $5,134,686 from $4,342,366 last year, growing by 18.3%. Hurley said without state and federal financial help, the city would be looking at a “different bottom line.” Carryover monies from surplus or undesignated funds were not used this year to offset taxes.

No residents spoke about the budget during the public hearing, which Councilor Neal Harkness took as “silent approval.” He called this year’s budget process “smooth, efficient and productive.”

Councilor Mary Mortier said the council takes the budget seriously and Herbig was new to the city manager position last year when the coronavirus struck. Herbig works with the budget on a daily basis, the councilor said, and she took a conservative approach to developing her recommended spending plan this year.

“Instead of reviewing last year’s budget and spending every penny that might be available, there was a very conservative stance, guidance, leadership from the city manager,” Mortier said.

She said they took a conservative stance on the budget this year because the coronavirus is still affecting the economy. Department heads and city staff did a good job at drafting their proposed budgets this year, she said.

“The taxpayers can feel very assured that every rock was turned over, everything that could be looked at, everything that could be squeezed, everything that could be analyzed, other than cutting off our noses to spite our faces,” Mortier said.