WESTBROOK — The Westbrook City Council has begun its review of next year’s proposed $64.6 million budget, which would carry the city’s biggest tax rate increase in eight years.
Mayor Mike Sanphy presented the proposed municipal, school and county budget that includes municipal, school and county expenditures on Monday evening. The budget proposal for the fiscal year that starts July 1 is $3.3 million higher, or 5.3 percent, than the spending plan for the current year. If approved, the property tax rate would go from $18.40 per $1,000 of assessed value to $19.50.
That’s an increase of 6 percent, or $1.10 per $1,000 of assessed value. On a home assessed at $190,000, the annual tax bill would go up by about $209. That’s the greatest increase since fiscal year 2010, when the property tax rate jumped $1.27 per $1,000 of assessed value.
“While I would like it to be doing more and costing less, this budget is my effort to continue to move our city forward while balancing the challenges facing all communities throughout the state of Maine, primarily how to adequately fund local services and operations while keeping our property tax rate at a manageable level,” Sanphy said.
Under the budget presented Monday, the school department would spend $36.5 million next year, a 3.75 percent increase over the current year. The municipal portion of the budget would be at $26.8 million, a 7.55 percent increase. The county share of spending would be $1.4 million, a 5.9 percent increase. Most new spending would go toward employee salaries and health insurance.
This proposal is Sanphy’s first as mayor of Westbrook. A former city councilor representing Ward 5, Sanphy was elected mayor in November. During his budget message, he highlighted investments in the Westbrook Police Department: a new patrol officer position paid for mostly by a federal grant, more money for the community policing center on Brown Street, and continued funding for a part-time coordinator to connect individuals with treatment for opiate addiction. He also noted a $36,200, or 32 percent, increase in the city’s contributions to health and social service programs in Westbrook.
The budget does not pay for an initiative from the city clerk’s office to develop and implement a consistent records management system. It also does not provide General Assistance for asylum seekers beyond the 24-month period of eligibility under federal law.
“In many ways, this is essentially a current services budget,” Sanphy said. “However, with the evolving needs and desires of our community, this is also a responsive budget that reflects, responds to and anticipates the needs of our city.”
The tax rate increase is partially offset by a roughly $10 million increase in Westbrook’s valuation. City Administrator Jerre Bryant said that figure is average compared to years past, and it is spurred in part by new residential developments.
“It’s coming from Blue Spruce Farm, it’s coming from Stroudwater Lodge,” Bryant said.
The finance committee will hold meetings to review the budget proposal Thursday at 6:30 p.m., Saturday at 8:30 a.m. and after the regular City Council meeting April 24. The council will hold a first reading May 5 and a second reading May 15. All meetings will take place in Room 114 at Westbrook High School. A referendum on the school budget is scheduled for June 13.
The budget presentation is available online at westbrookmaine.com.
Megan Doyle can be contacted at 791-6327 or at: