Bath taxpayers could see a 1.61% tax increase if city councilors approve a proposed $17.28 million budget next month. That would equate to an $70 increase in taxes on a home valued at $200,000.

The proposed budget shows a nearly $228,000 increase, or 0.73%, over last year’s budget, according to Finance Director Juli Millett.

One of the city’s most recent purchases include 18 body cameras for Bath police patrol officers. The city plans to spend $17,000 on a contract with Axon, a law enforcement equipment manufacturer. The contract will last five years and total $80,000.

“We’re at a point where we need to be transparent with either video cameras or body cameras … and body cameras seemed to be the best option,” Bath Police Chief Mike Field told councilors last week.

The city’s proposed capital fund budget totaled $885,596, showing a $70,956, or 8.71%, increase from last year. Millett said a new plow truck, municipal building upgrades, and funding the transfer of Morse High School to the city are the largest drivers.

Other major drivers of the proposed budget include debt payments on large purchases from last year, such as McMann Field renovations, fire trucks and equipment for the public works department, according to Millett. Those necessary payments caused the capital fund budget to increase by just under $71,000, or 8.71%, bringing the total to $885,596.

Bath’s proposed general fund expenditures are increasing $95,992, or 0.83%, to total $11,712,156. The increase stems mainly from proposed increases to salaries and retirement contributions.

No new positions were added to budget this year and one full-time firefighter position was removed because, “unfortunately, we’re at a cap with our expenditures and that position doesn’t fit,” said Millett.

Millett said that position happened to be empty, but the city wants to eventually fill it when the budget allows.

Millett said the city’s proposed budget was kept as lean as possible, in part because of the financial uncertainty taxpayers may be experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the city’s tax increment rose by 1.8%, the total property tax burden dropped slightly to 1.61% when combined with budget proposals from Regional School Unit 1 and Sagadahoc County.

RSU 1’s proposed $38.8 million budget, a 1.6% increase from last year, is driven by a $469,000 increase in regular instruction, up nearly 4% from previous spending. Part of that increase covers a new gifted and talented teacher and a new sixth grade science teacher at Bath Middle School, according to budget documents available on the school district’s website.

The proposed $10.7 million Sagadahoc County budget is increasing by $342,818 or 3.3% according to Pamela Hile, the county administrator. The county plans to spend $28,000 to replace cameras in police cruisers. The county is proposing to spend $18,000 for Emergency 911 software upgrades and raise an additional $40,000 to replace the emergency dispatch software system.

The county’s employee wages are increasing 3% which is also driving the overall increase.

Bath will hold a public hearing on the proposed budget on Wednesday, May 19 at 6 p.m., the location of which hasn’t yet been set.

City councilors will vote on the proposed budget at their June city council meeting. Councilors haven’t yet set the date and location of the meeting, but details will be announced on the city’s website. Public meetings can be viewed on Bath Community Television and via livestream on the city’s website.

If approved, the budget will take effect July 1.

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