SACO — The city’s mil rate – the rate property owners pay per $1,000 of appraised value — is poised to decrease by about 53 cents this year to around $18.35, Finance Director Glenys Salas told the Saco City Council following budget deliberations Monday — but she cautioned the number was an estimate and could change.
“This is based on the latest valuation numbers,” Salas told the council. She said the tax levy is up by 5.2 percent.
The City Council approved Monday both the municipal and school budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Voters will have the final say on whether to validate the $47.6 million school budget at the polls June 14.
Councilors approved a $35.7 municipal budget, offset by $11.5 million in local revenue and state revenue sharing, and an estimated $519,000 from fund balance, with $23.7 million to be raised in property taxes.
Saco taxpayers’ portion of the $47. 6 million Pre-K-12 school budget for the city is about $28.9 million, which includes $10.4 million in additional local funds over the state’s Essential Programs and Services model.
Councilors made some changes, including adding a firefighter/EMT position at Saco Fire Department, adding $200,000 for painting and furniture at Saco Middle School, adding money for a van for the Age Friendly transportation program and for a coordinator position — some of which was to come from American Rescue Plan Act funding.
The City Council agreed to put $170,000 toward a regional dredge initiative using ARPA funds, which would be used for start-up operations costs. York County Commissioners are considering earmarking up to $1.8 million in ARPA funding for a regional dredge.
Among other changes, the council agreed to use $20,600 in ARPA funds to make it possible to host hybrid meetings in the City Council chambers, so people could participate from home. Residents can watch City Council meetings on television or live on Facebook but currently cannot participate — using a hybrid model would allow people to do so. They also voted to approve $75,000, splitting the figure between ARPA and TIF funds, for engineering a bypass road from Smith Lane to Stockwell Avenue.
Earlier in the evening, the City Council heard from Mayor William Doyle and School Superintendent Jeremy Ray about the possibility of additional students attending Saco schools in the fall.
Doyle said the City of Portland and the governor’s office is working to relocate refugees, and Portland is considering contracting with a Saco hotel.
“This is done in a private setting, but nothing is finalized as of yet,” Doyle told the council on Monday. “That is why there is some uncertainty as to what may or may not occur as we look forward to the next school season as to how many students may be joining the Saco school system.”
“We continue to hear that may be a possibility for us,” said Ray, which could add a significant number of students, including those who need English support. Because of the potential location where the refugees may be living, Young School could see an increase in students, he said.
He was waiting to hear more, Ray said, and could know by later this week.
The city would have to think about where funds to educate additional students would be found, he said, and suggested advocating at the state level for additional money and at carryover.
Councilor Michael Burman said he had been reading about Portland’s inability to house additional refugees because of lack of shelter space and other housing.
“I was lamenting that Saco couldn’t do more to help, and so I am pleased to hear we may be part of the solution,” said Burman. “I would be eager to be supportive in any way I could be in rehousing these people and giving them a safe place to live, if needed.”