PORTLAND – The City Council on Monday approved a $196.2 million municipal budget that will raise property taxes 1 percent, increase the cost of pay-as-you-throw trash bags and change public safety staffing on Peaks Island.

Although some councilors opposed the fee increase for trash bags and the policing cutbacks for Peaks, the majority voted to approve the budget essentially as recommended by the council’s Finance Committee.

That means these changes will begin July 1, the start of the 2011 fiscal year:

• The branch libraries in the East and West ends will close.

• The cost of the city’s blue trash bags will go up, from 75 cents to $1 for small bags and from $1.50 to $2 for large bags.

• Thirty-eight jobs will be eliminated, about half of which are now filled.

• The city’s popular parking ticket forgiveness program will end. The program allows drivers to throw away one ticket every six months.

• Police staffing on Peaks Island will be reduced so there will be only one officer on the island at a time, instead of two. A second officer will be on the island on summer weekends. To make up for the loss, one of the four firefighters assigned to the city’s fireboat will be stationed on the island at all times.

• There will be no public funding for Fourth of July fireworks; the $45,000 cost will be paid by corporate donors.

Combined, Portland’s municipal and school budgets and Cumberland County taxes will add 18 cents — 1 percent — to the property tax rate, raising it to $17.92 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. That will add $36 to the tax bill for the owner of a $200,000 home.

The council made only one change to the budget recommended by the Finance Committee, removing a proposed fee increase for making changes to homes in historic districts.

City Manager Joe Gray proposed increasing the fee for modest changes, such as adding a new door, from $50 to $100, and increasing the cost of a review by the city’s Historic Preservation Board from $100 to $250.

Councilors John Anton and David Marshall successfully argued that the fee increase would be too high.

The two most controversial issues were the fee increase for the trash bags and Peaks Island police staffing.

The fee increase will bring the city an additional $350,000 to close a budget shortfall. Councilor Cheryl Leeman voted to support the fee rather than raise the same amount of money with a property tax increase, saying that residents can lower their trash costs by recycling more.

“I can assure you I can find 25 cents worth of recycling to make up the difference,” she said.

Anton argued that renters and lower-income residents would pay more to dispose of their trash, while commercial property owners, large apartment owners and owners of expensive homes would enjoy a tax savings.

“It’s fairer to raise the money with a property tax than with a blue-bag fee,” Anton said.

Only councilors Kevin Donoghue and David Marshall supported Anton’s motion to eliminate the fee increase.

On the issue of Peaks Island police staffing, Donoghue sought to add $54,000 to the budget to pay for overtime to have a second officer on Peaks Island seven days a week during the summer.

The council defeated that proposal 5 to 4, with Marshall, Mayor Nicholas Mavodones and Councilor Dory Waxman voting to support Donoghue’s proposal, and councilors Anton, Leeman, Jill Duson, John Coyne and Dan Skolnik voting “no.”

Overall, the 2011 budget contains $7 million more in spending than this year’s municipal budget of $189.2 million.

 

Staff Writer Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at: [email protected]