BATH — A $16.6 million city budget for fiscal year 2020, reflecting a 4.7 percent increase in spending, is scheduled for a public hearing May 15.

The spending plan made a brief appearance at a regular City Council meeting Wednesday. The panel on May 1 also unanimously approved a five-year contract with Pine Tree Waste, eliminated a 5-cent fee on single-use paper bags at city businesses, and made two streets one-way, with new parking spaces created from the closed travel lanes.

Although city expenses are projected to rise nearly 5 percent in the budget year that begins July 1, a hike in non-tax revenues such as revenue sharing, sewer fees, and interest income would offset spending enough to produce a 0.42 percent tax reduction on the city side.

Factoring in projected assessments to Bath from Sagadahoc County ($1.8 million, up 0.20 percent) and Regional School Unit 1 ($10.7 million, up 1.25 percent), the city’s total property taxes would be $21.4 million, a 1.04 percent bump.

A home valued at $200,000 would see a $35 annual tax increase.

Bath’s $11.2 million general fund, the largest portion of its city budget, is up 3.1 percent. Personnel is the largest driver, thanks to hikes in salaries, health insurance and retirement contributions, according to the city’s fiscal year 2020 budget report.

The May 15 hearing will be held in the City Hall auditorium at 6 p.m. The council is due to approve the budget June 5.

Waste pact

The contractwith Pine Tree stipulates that the city would pay about $333,200 for basic services for the first year of the contract for waste removal, with adjustments in subsequent years based on the consumer price index.

The city has hired Pine Tree for nearly 20 years, according to City Manager Peter Owen. The prior five-year contract expired in June 2018, and Pine Tree has continued to work since then without a contract.

The city paid $373,200 the final year of its most recent contract, Public Works Director Lee Leiner said Wednesday. The savings in the new contract stems from “a shifting of schedules and the use of a single split truck to collect both trash and recycling at the same time,” he said.

A new fee for recycling processing, reflecting changes in the recycled material market, will be floating and rise and fall along with the market. Leiner said he expects that fee to make up the difference between the contracts, “so we end up paying about the same as before, with a service enhancement that everyone gets collection of trash and recycling on the same day – we did not have this before.”

Pine Tree each week collects household trash that is placed in blue city pay-as-you-throw bags. The city pays for trash collection only from single-family homes and duplexes, according to cityofbath.com/curbside-collection. Apartments, businesses, and homes with three or more families have to arrange for private trash service.

Bag fees

Although the council eliminated the 5-cent paper bag fee, a ban on plastic bags will remain in place.

While the plastic bag ban has gone well, “there’s been a real pushback by the business community” on the paper bag fee, particularly shops that provide small bags for items like a book or pastry, City Manager Peter Owen said last month.

Those businesses “don’t want to charge anything, and we made it mandatory,” he added.

Under the ordinance change, the fee would be at the discretion of businesses.

The City Council in late 2017 authorized a ban on plastic bags and polystyrene containers, effective on Earth Day, April 22, 2018

The 5-cent fee had been scheduled to increase to 10 cents this Earth Day (also April 22). But it is now up to individual businesses to decide what fee to assess, if any, and they would continue to keep those revenues.

The bag fee implementation had been inconsistent among businesses, according to Leiner.

The fee was meant as an incentive to encourage customers toward reusable bags without an outright ban on paper bags, he said.

Eliminating the fee for paper bags will “probably” reduce the incentive not to use them, Leiner acknowledged last month. “I’m thinking that we’re going to try to pick up the slack with some more education, some more outreach.”

2 streets, 1 way

Linden Street will become one way westbound, with parking moving from the north side of the street to the south, and capped at four hours. Nearby Summer Street, in turn, will become one way eastbound, with four-hour parking added to the north side from Patten Free Library up to Washington Street.

Summer Street at its eastern point meets Washington in a Y-shape, with two access points. The northern right arm will be blocked off to create a single access point, and two-hour spots along the west side of Washington would be created.

The reconfigurations will add 24 parking spots to the area.

Alex Lear can be reached at 780-9085 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

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