BIDDEFORD – Bond payments will result in a hefty tax rate increase for Biddeford residents next year.

The tax rate will increase by 8.8 percent to cover bonds for several projects, including $32 million for the Biddeford High School renovation, $4 million for roads and $4.9 million for a combined sewer overflow system, city Finance Director Curt Koehler said.

The increase translates to an extra $1.30 on the tax rate. Koehler said residents with homes valued at $200,000 can expect to pay an extra $260 this year in property taxes.

“People anticipated that when they voted for those bonds. It’s unfortunate with the economy so bad at this time, but it is something we definitely needed for the city,” Councilor Bob Mills said.

City councilors were presented this week with an overall $57.2 million budget proposal, a 5.8 percent increase over the current year, which ends June 30. The bulk of the budget consists of $31.8 million for schools and $24.1 million for municipal services.

City Manager John Bubier, in a letter sent with the budget, said the proposal is “the fourth straight manager’s operating budget submission with a 0 percent impact on the Biddeford city tax rate.”

In order to achieve that, Bubier said six to 12 municipal positions would be cut, depending on insurance company reimbursements for ambulance services. In addition, requests for new positions would not be filled, Koehler said. The job cuts would affect the finance, assessing, engineering, wastewater, recreation and public-access television departments.

“We really have some challenges,” said Councilor Jim Emerson.

Emerson said the city is “caught between a rock and a hard place” when it comes to raising taxes and cutting positions.

If the city did not make the cuts, he said, residents could be looking at a nearly 20 percent tax rate increase.

“The most we could do was a 9 percent increase to cover the debt. Does that mean I’m happy with that? Absolutely not,” he said. “We’re still looking at cutting.”

Emerson said he hopes to find other cost-saving measures to discuss during budget workshops scheduled through April.

Last week the Biddeford School Committee voted 5-1 to send a $31.8 million education budget to the City Council.

With a $1.4 million revenue shortfall, the School Department could lose up to 28 staff positions if savings are not found elsewhere.

School Committee member Laura Seaver said the panel is expected to discuss strategies for cost savings at a meeting Tuesday.

“We’re going to be hearing numbers about activity fees, parking fees, any way to increase our revenue and try to (limit) that cut,” Seaver said. “Many of us have talked about looking at all the extracurricular stipends, and those numbers will be presented on Tuesday.”

Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at: [email protected]