City Manager Peter Owen described the proposed city spending plan for the 2019 fiscal year as a “responsible and lean budget.”

“We are benefiting basically from strong fiscal practices from the past,” said Owen on Wednesday, while thanking city staff and department heads for their efforts, “and it’s my intention to continue those fiscal practices to bring the best, responsible budget for the Bath citizens going forward.”

The $15.87 million budget represents a decrease in spending by $133,368 — or 0.83 percent — from the current budget of $16.01 million.

Despite the decrease, residents’ property tax obligation is slated to increase by 2.48 percent.

That’s because the biggest decreases in spending are coming from sewer and landfill budgets, partly due to a delay of a sewer bond payment until next year.

The decreases in spending will not correlate with lower taxes because those two portions of town operations are largely funded through fees.

On the other hand, Owen noted that there will be “minimal salary increases and health care increases,” which are paid for through property taxes. The municipal budget will contribute only a 0.75 percent increase in taxes for Bath property owners.

Helping drive the property tax increase is Regional School Unit 1’s request for a $10.42 million local contribution from Bath. That’s an increase of $369,258 — or 3.67 percent — over the current year contribution of $10.05 million.
Sagadahoc County’s local contribution request will actually decrease slightly — by $13,948, or 0.8 percent — to $1.73 million.

The only city resident to speak during the public hearing on the budget was Joseph Phillips of North Street, who thanked the city for including the paving of North Street in the budget.

Elections

Also on Wednesday, the City Council approved posting notice for the June 12 state election and posting the warrant for the Regional School Unit 1 budget validation.

Voting on June 12 in Bath will take place at Bath Middle School. Polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Absentee ballots are currently available for the state and school elections at city hall, although school ballots cannot be returned until May 30, after the school budget meeting at 6 p.m. May 29 at Bath Middle School.

In-person voting and registration can be done from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday at City Hall leading up to the election, except for Tuesday, June 5, when in-person voting can be done from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

“You have all kinds of opportunities to vote,” Chairwoman Mari Eosco said. “There’s no excuse.”

Bonds

As part of their preparations for passing the city budget, councilors also gave initial approval to multiple bonds to finance various purchases and projects.

The council approved a $1 million bond to help fund wastewater infrastructure improvements. The bond is a supplement to a $9.8 million bond approved by voters via referendum in November 2015 to fund wastewater infrastructure improvements.

However, according to the order the cost of the projects has increased and the city needs the additional bond to complete those projects.

The city will borrow the $1 million through the state revolving fund, according to Finance Director Juli Millett.

“They have granted us principal forgiveness on this million dollars, so we will not pay it back,” Millett said.

The council also gave initial approval of a $283,000 bond to help finance vehicles and equipment for the city, including a used van for police animal control, a washer/dryer for the fire department, a police vehicle, a one ton dump truck for the forestry department, and a public works loader replacement with forks.

The council also approved a supplemental appropriation of $165,000. The appropriation is a routine procedure the city has taken since some point in the 1980s, said Eosco.

Bath has an expenditure limitation, and the supplemental appropriation is intended to give the city leeway if it needs to expend more next year.

The second passage of the bonds and supplemental appropriation will take place on June 6.