SOUTH PORTLAND— City Manager Scott Morelli is proposing a $35 million municipal budget for the next fiscal year that contributes to an overall 3.8 percent tax increase.

That would be a slightly higher increase than the margin directed by city councilors. 

Morelli said his presentation to the City Council April 5 was a “30,000-foot view” of the budget before councilors dive into budget hearings and department expenses. 

His municipal budget requires a 3.4 percent tax hike – just under the 3.5 percent cap councilors suggested in January. But if the combined city, school and county budgets are approved, the tax rate will be $18.69 per $1,000 of assessed value, a 3.8 percent increase from this year’s $18. The city’s portion of the proposed tax rate is $5.50.

According to Morelli, if the total budget passes, South Portland taxpayers with a median home valued at $197,000 and a homestead exemption would pay about $3,316 in fiscal year 2019, up from $3,193 from this year. 

Morelli said he included the homestead exemption because 71 percent of residents receive the tax break.  

The school budget, adopted earlier this month by the School Board, is $50 million, up $1.1 million from last year, with $42 million to be raised in taxes, up 4 percent from this year. The tax impact from the school is $12. The county share equals about $2 million, up 7.7 percent.

Driving the budget are a $660,000 increase in benefits and salaries, as well as the addition of a planner, assistant code enforcement officer and four new firefighters. Morelli said staff costs make up about two-thirds of the budget.

State revenue sharing is down $2 million, and Morelli said the city will speak with its legislative delegation to urge lawmakers to restore that funding.

Other factors driving the budget include about $200,000 in debt service payments and the lease of a fire truck.

To keep the tax impact down, the city did not fund nearly $500,000 in positions, including a new park ranger, a full-time teen center coordinator, an IT help-desk position and two public works positions, among others. 

The council can revisit these decisions and decide to restore the funding as the process proceeds, Morelli said. 

The council will discuss the budget at public hearings April 19 and April 26, and will discuss the school budget May 3. Councilors will vote on the school budget May 15, with the public referendum vote slated for June 12. The city’s budget will receive a final vote June 19. 

Juliette Laaka can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or at [email protected]