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Councilors approve $11.1 million budget, avoid tax hike

HOULTON, Maine — With little discussion during a public hearing on Monday evening, town councilors approved an $11.1 million budget for 2019. 

Municipal spending increased $254,337 over last year, which would have resulted in about a half-mill increase to the tax rate. Councilors agreed to prevent that by withdrawing $231,000 from its surplus account.

They approved the spending plan after giving residents in attendance an opportunity to pose questions on each line in the budget. No one asked any.

Some of the largest expenditures in the budget are for safety and fire protection. The council approved $1.1 million for the police department, $516,401 for the fire department and $800,727 for the ambulance service.

Councilors also allocated $59,973 for municipal cemeteries, $42,625 for rest areas and $300,000 for the roads account. They also designated $545,254 for tax increment financing. Additionally, the town officials allocated $24,000 for the Greater Houlton Chamber of Commerce, $152,763 for Cary Library, and $10,234 for the Northern Maine Development Commission.

The capital projects account also went from $5,000 to $49,000 to allow the town to do repairs to Elm Street, near the Millar Civic Center. Those funds are separate from the roads account.

The town also was mandated to pay $386,547 as its share of the County tax. Officials set aside $2,418,530 for the commitment to the RSU 29 budget, but the tax rate will not be finalized until firm numbers are provided from the district. The school budget is not set until June.

This year’s budget also included a 1.5 percent salary increase for employees. Last year, councilors approved a 2 percent salary increase.

Interim Town Manager Cathy O’Leary thanked councilors and the members of the board of budget review for their efforts in putting together the spending plan.

“I know a lot of work went into this,” she said Monday.

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