PORTLAND — City Manager Joe Gray plans to present a non-school budget today that calls for tax and fee increases, layoffs and cuts to city services.

Although positions would be eliminated in most departments, the cuts wouldn’t be as severe as they were two years ago, when 98 positions were eliminated, officials said Thursday.

Because the Legislature restored $1.4 million that stood to be cut from the city’s share of general assistance funding, Portland’s budget outlook has improved since this winter, when city officials feared an $8 million revenue shortfall for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

At that time, Gray talked about cutting 85 positions citywide, said Jim Vance, president of two local units of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

Gray said later that the city would cut 50 jobs, Vance said, then a few weeks later reduced the estimate to around 30.

“I hear it’s not as bad as anticipated, but we don’t know,” Vance said. “We are all still nervous.”

City spokeswoman Nicole Clegg said officials hope the community will step forward to find alternative funding for services that are slated for cuts.

She said the proposal includes a property tax increase but declined to give more details. She also withheld specifics on job cut, saying Gray first wants to talk to union leaders. Gray plans to meet with them at 9 a.m. today.

The 2010-11 budget is built on assumptions that city revenue will continue to stagnate or decline while some costs rise. They include:

n A $1.1 million decrease in revenue sharing from the state.

n A $400,000 decrease in excise tax revenue.

n A $1.3 million increase in general assistance spending, with the city’s portion growing by $140,000.

While the economy appears to be improving, Clegg said many Portland residents will see their unemployment benefits run out in the coming year.

“The high unemployment rates and the lack of jobs will have a real impact on our budget and our local economy,” Clegg said.

She said Gray has made public safety services and the city’s social safety net high priorities.

His budget also includes a new “sustainability coordinator” to oversee energy use and pollution control, a grant-funded position..

The City Council’s finance committee will begin reviewing the budget next week, during meetings on Tuesday and Thursday.

On Monday, the School Committee will present its $90 million budget to the City Council. The budget would eliminate 64 positions and create 15.5 new positions. It calls for four new positions funded by grants.

The proposed school budget would add 11 cents to the property-tax rate, increasing the tax bill on a $200,000 home by $22.

Mayor Nicholas Mavodones Jr. said officials will discuss whether there should be a tax increase and, if so, by what amount.

He expects that city councilors will talk with school officials about whether the tax increase they are seeking is acceptable. The council has final say on the school budget.

The council’s finance committee is scheduled to make a recommendation on the city budget on April 27. The City Council will have a public hearing on May 3, and a public hearing and final vote on May 17.

“There will be plenty of opportunities for the public to participate over the next several weeks,” Mavodones said.

 

Staff Writer Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at:

[email protected]