Brewer residents can expect to see their property tax rate drop by 40 cents under the city’s new $15.6 million municipal budget, which councilors approved Tuesday.
Although the new spending plan is 4.6 percent higher than last year’s, the city’s property tax rate will fall to $21.90 for every $1,000 of property value, as real estate values in the city have risen. This means a Brewer home valued at $200,000 will pay $4,380 in property taxes.
The new budget allows the city to “provide a good array of services to our citizens while providing a decrease in our mill rate as well,” Brewer Finance Director Karen Fussell said.
The municipal spending plan contains incremental increases to the general government, protections, public services, public works and recreation budgets, according to budget documents. Those increases are partially offset by a drop in the amount the city has to devote to debt service.
It all works out to a $691,000 increase over last year’s budget.
One of the major drivers of the budget increase is a nearly $273,000 — or 10 percent — jump in public works spending, which includes the cost of an additional public works crew member to help accomplish seasonal work.
The budget includes a 5 percent cost-of-living pay raise for nonunion employees and “scheduled adjustments” for union employees.
The budget also compensates for the addition of a 14th firefighter, which the city hopes will lower the cost of overtime for the fire department, though the city has applied for a federal grant to cover the cost of the new position.
The budget also anticipates a 30 percent jump in Brewer’s share of the Community Connector regional bus service. The increase stems from higher labor and fuel costs, declining federal subsidies, and a scheduled increase in the city’s annual contribution to a capital reserve account for the service.
Councilors also approved the new $26.2 million school budget on Tuesday, which is 6.7 percent higher than last year’s. The increase is driven largely by a $1.4 million increase in personnel expenses — an 8.5 percent jump over last year.
The increase in school spending is offset by a larger education subsidy payment
from the state, a double-digit increase in projected tuition revenue from neighboring towns that send students to Brewer High School, and use of a fund balance that accumulated as a result of pandemic savings, City Manager Stephen Bost wrote in a letter to city councilors. As a result, the education budget does not require additional funds from Brewer taxpayers, he said.
Brewer’s tax bill to fund Penobscot County’s budget is also increasing by $87,432 — or 7.4 percent — to $1.3 million.
The hike is driven largely by increases in jail costs, according to Bost.