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Lewiston council approves $53.5 million budget for fiscal year 2023

LEWISTON — City Council approved next year’s $53.5 million city budget by unanimous vote Tuesday, sending the proposed $98.8 million school budget to voters for the annual budget validation referendum May 10.

Overall, the fiscal year 2023 budget will increase the property tax rate by $1.25 per $1,000 of property assessment.

City Administrator Heather Hunter said Tuesday that with a change to the state’s homeownership exemption program, a home worth $250,000 would see an increase of about $309.

During talks Tuesday, Hunter said the property tax increase would be the first for Lewiston residents in three years. She urged residents to keep in mind that authorities managed “two tax rate reduction exercises at the height of the pandemic.”

From the beginning of the budget negotiations, it was clear that the municipal and school authorities were preparing for difficult decisions in order to avoid a sharp increase in taxes. The initial outlook reflected an increase of more than $4 in the tax rate.

A finance committee memo, written by Councilor Lee Clement, said “all facets have worked in a concerted effort to maintain our level of service without a major tax increase. Thanks and thanks are due to all departments and staff for their cooperative effort, which resulted in a projected increase of $1.25 from the original $4.09. It is certainly more desirable than the original starting point.

The council’s allocation of $53.5 million mirrors the city’s budget of $50.37, as well as the county’s budget of $3.15 million. Including the school’s budget, the total spending plan for fiscal year 2023 is $152.4 million. The tax rate will drop from $28.26 to $29.51, which officials say is still below the $30 mark that has been seen in recent years as a red line.

Clement said keeping it under $30 “took real effort this year,” adding that the only way to avoid going over the mark will be a city-wide reassessment. A reassessment is planned within the next two years, which city finance staff say would likely reduce the tax rate significantly.

The council also on Tuesday adopted the annual budgets for the Community Development Block Grant and the federal HOME program for next year. Funding is used for services for low-income families and housing. Councilwoman Linda Scott said while funding has been focused in recent years primarily on the Tree Streets neighborhood, which includes two of Maine’s poorest census districts, she would like the city to dedicate more of the funding to the Sunnyside Park neighborhood, which also is eligible for funding.


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