PRESQUE ISLE – Finance issues topped the City Council agenda Monday night as local officials discussed efforts that soon will be under way to hammer out the 2007 municipal budget, and heard information on both sides of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights.
City Manager Tom Stevens presented an “unfiltered” budget to councilors as they prepared for their annual budget workshop process. The City Council requested the “raw” budget in order to get a better sense of figures before city staffers make their initial cuts to it.
Stevens said the initial budget was up about 10 percent, though that number likely will decrease significantly as the budget process moves forward. He said revenues were up substantially. The budget also reflects a 3 percent pay increase for employees and a small increase for volunteer firefighters.
City councilors scheduled four budget workshops to trim the budget and prepare it for final approval in December. The workshops will be held from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. Oct. 25, 30, Nov. 1 and Nov. 2.
Later in the meeting, Stevens gave a presentation about the anticipated effects of Maine TABOR.
TABOR limits government spending and requires that budget increases above a set limit, as well as tax rate and fee increases, be approved through an override process that includes a two-thirds vote of the legislative body and a referendum election.
Stevens said the measure puts stability at the local level more at risk, eats away at local infrastructure and takes away “home rule.”
Two supporters of the measure who spoke to the council earlier in the evening said TABOR tries to slow down spending by letting above-limit increases go back to voters for approval by a simple majority. The current tax situation is not working, they said.
Councilors will decide at their next meeting whether they want to take a stance on the TABOR issue.
Also during the meeting, the council reviewed the City Hall building assessment report as part of a process to consider renovating the aging municipal facility. The report, conducted by North Peak Architecture of Presque Isle, examined the condition of the building’s interior, exterior, accessibility, and mechanical and electrical systems.
Needed repairs and improvements identified in the report include: a boiler replacement, a fire alarm system, lever handles for doors and a redesign of workstations.
Stevens said the next step is for city staff and a representative from the council to sit down with the architect and develop a multiyear plan to address the renovations. Councilors agreed that Don Gardiner should serve as council representative.
The Presque Isle City Council will hold its next meeting at 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 16, in council chambers.