Auburn council approves 2024 budget in first reading
May 2—AUBURN — The City Council gave initial approval Monday night to next year's $112.8 million budget, with a final reading scheduled for May 15.
If approved as is, the budget would reflect an 81-cent increase to the property tax rate per $1,000 in valuation, however, officials said Monday that they expect a citywide increase in valuation will lower the increase to 65 cents.
The 81-cent increase to $23.56 per $1,000 of assessed valuation would add roughly $202 to the annual tax bill of a resident with a home valued at $250,000. A 65-cent increase would add about $162.
The council approved the budget by a 4-1 vote, with two councilors absent. It includes a proposed school budget of $58.8 million. The School Committee is expected to approve that budget Wednesday.
Prior to the vote, councilors said Auburn's projected tax rate increase was low compared to other municipalities, at a time when cities are struggling with the effects of inflation and higher costs. The budget reflects 12 positions that were cut, many of which are vacant.
City Manager Phil Crowell said city staff thinks that budgeting for an additional $15 million in city valuation is a "conservative" approach given recent development activity in Auburn, but that the final number will not be known until June.
He said the tax rate will "not be any higher than the 81 cents, but will be reduced based on valuation."
Last year, the city conducted a market adjustment that raised valuations for many single-family homeowners. Crowell said that would not occur again this year. He said adjustments for multiunit and commercial properties likely would, however.
Officials have used the difficult budget year to stump for further development activity, which they say will stave off tax increases in future years.
During an earlier workshop, Mayor Jason Levesque said the city needs to bring in "massive amounts of new value to the city or we'll be losing more staff." He said tax revenue from new housing development is helping to keep the tax rate more stable.
Prior to the budget vote, the council also voted unanimously to remove the city's recycling program from next year's budget, instead appropriating the $227,000 toward a fund to pay for an automated trash collection system.