Biddeford city councilors have passed a combined municipal and education budget that would increase the tax rate by 36 cents, or nearly 2 percent, beginning July 1.

The education portion won’t be finalized until it’s approved by residents on June 11, however. That referendum will take place 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Tiger Gym at Biddeford High School on Maplewood Avenue.

On Tuesday, the council passed the fiscal year 2020 budget that includes $33.1 million for city expenses, $38.9 million for education and $1.2 million for the county tax – which has not yet been finalized by York County commissioners – bringing the total to $73.2 million. The total amount of taxes to be raised is about $48.3 million.

The estimated mil rate will be about $20.06 per $1,000 of assessed value – the final tax rate will be set in late June, Finance Director Cheryl Fournier said – that’s a 36 cent increase over the current $19.70 tax rate. Based on the new rate, property taxes for a median valued home of $227,100 will be about $4,154.42 for the year, versus $4,079.87 last year, a $74.55 increase, City Manager James Bennett said in an interview.

In addition, Bennett said Tuesday that the city portion of the budget will be amended within the next month or two as the city was recently informed that the federal government is awarding $7.5 million to the Biddeford Municipal Airport, with no local match required.

The majority voted for the $5.4 million expenditure budget/$5.2 million revenue budget for the Airport Operations Fund. On Thursday, Fournier said $258,000 toward expenditures will come from the grant.

The airport fund was the only subject of debate as councilors finalized the budget.

“There’s been a huge investment … in the airport,” said Councilor Stephen St. Cyr, who voted against the Airport Operations Fund. The airport, he said, should provide “an opportunity to do more and make more” for residents. It should provide benefit for the entire city, he said, “not for a relatively small group of individuals.”

Councilor Marc Lessard also voted against the airport fund, saying “the highest and best use of that acreage would be to add it to the business park/industrial park, of which we are nearly out of that type of acreage.”

The reason the airport continues, he said, is because closing it would cost the city millions to repay grants from the federal government.

The majority of the council voted in favor of the fund. “The airport is an asset,” Council President John McCurry said.

“It adds to revenue in ways that we can’t necessarily quantify in the actual fund,” Councilor Amy Clearwater said.

She said people fly into the airport and visit Biddeford restaurants, hotels, shops and use other local services. The monetary benefit to the city “is just not captured in literal dollar-for-dollar revenue,” she said.

Fournier said that the city may take in more revenue than has been accounted for through new development. If that is the case, she said, additional funds could be used for capital projects for the schools and the city, added to the general fund and to increase the McArthur Library budget item. During a May 8 public hearing on the budget, a number of people spoke in favor of increasing the city’s contribution to the library from $505,000, which was approved Tuesday, to $527,000.

Dina Mendros — 207-780-9014

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