SOUTH PORTLAND – Mayor Tom Blake on Monday singled out the municipal tax rate as the City Council’s highest priority for the coming year.

He said councilors must work to keep the rate from increasing more than 1 percent.

“It is my sense our taxpayers simply cannot pay more,” Blake said during his inaugural address.

The City Council on Monday unanimously voted for Blake, a councilor-at-large, to serve as mayor for the next year. It is the second time he has served in the largely ceremonial post. He succeeds Patti Smith.

In his speech, Blake outlined five other areas of focus:

• A new public works, parks and transportation facility. Blake said the proposed complex, which would replace the O’Neil Street public works facility built in the 1930s, would ultimately be more cost effective. He said that because the current estimated price tag of $18 million is too high, the cost must either be cut or the project must be done in phases. City officials plan to put a bond proposal before voters in November.

• Public transportation. Blake said the current municipal and regional systems are inefficient and costly. He said he supports regional cooperation to pursue improvements.

• An endowment fund. Blake supports establishment of such a fund to maintain tourism attractions such as Bug Light and the Greenbelt Walkway. The endowment would supplement, rather than replace, taxes, he said.

• Economic development. Blake said the city must hire an assistant city manager and economic development director; study economic development practices and engage the community in branding and marketing efforts.

• City Council-Board of Education relations. Blake said he wants communication and the relationship between the groups to continue to improve. He said that will help in the budget process.

Blake thanked his fellow councilors for having faith in him.

“It is not every day that one has the privilege to serve as their community’s mayor. To have that honor for a second time truly humbles me,” he said.

Two new city councilors – Linda Cohen and Melissa Linscott – were sworn in Monday. Cohen replaces Maxine Beecher, who did not run again due to term limits, in District 4. Linscott defeated District 3 incumbent Rosemarie De Angelis.

School board members Tappan Fitzgerald, James Gilboy, Mary House and Richard Matthews were sworn in during a separate ceremony Monday. The school board unanimously selected Richard Carter as chairman and Fitzgerald as vice chairman for the next year.

Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at:

akim@pressherald.com

Twitter: AnnKimPPH