WATERVILLE — City councilors on Tuesday will consider taking a first vote on a proposed $37.2 million municipal and school budget for 2014-15 — a plan that reflects no spending increase over the 2013-14 budget, and which includes a pay-as-you-throw trash collection fee.
The meeting will be at 7 p.m. in the council chambers at The Center downtown and will be preceded by an executive session at 6:45 p.m. to discuss labor negotiations for clerical and public works employees.
City officials initially proposed a 2014-15 budget that was about $1.1 million more than the current plan but, in an effort to maintain the city’s property tax rate of $27.40 per $1,000 of valuation, devised a plan to trim the proposed budget by $1.1 million.
To reduce the budget to last year’s level, officials assume that a new pay-as-you-throw trash collection program will be instituted but would be subject to a referendum next year.
Supporters estimate that the program would result in a net budget gain of $323,000 between increased revenue and reduced expenses, according to Chuck Calkins, the city’s finance director
The budget proposal would also cut about $100,000 in expenses, transfer $400,000 from surplus and calls on city schools to pitch in another $120,000 in surplus, among other adjustments.
“The (proposed) budget is basically flat from a tax standpoint,” Calkins said Monday.
Tuesday’s vote would be the first of three needed votes on the budget. The council would take two more votes at meetings in June, according to Council Chairman Fred Stubbert, D-Ward 1.
Stubbert said Monday that some city councilors have told him they will vote Tuesday to approve the proposed budget with the understanding that councilors will vote in June to set a referendum next year that allows city residents to decide whether the city should continue the pay-as-you-throw program.
“There is one contingency on this — that we have a resolution to put the issue to a referendum in June or November 2015,” Stubbert said. “It will go to the voters after we’ve had the pay-as-you-throw in place.”
Stubbert said that while many people support the pay-as-you-throw proposal, others oppose the program, which requires residents to buy special trash bags for their garbage to be picked up.
Residents would also be required to recycle plastic, glass, paper, cardboard and aluminum and place them all in a separate container at the curb, with the container marked so that it is clear it contains recyclables.
The goal of pay-as-you-throw is to reduce the trash the city generates by encouraging residents to recycle, according to officials. The city’s contract with Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. in Orrington expires in 2018 and after that, the cost for trash disposal is expected to skyrocket, they said.
The city’s Public Works Department picks up trash curbside at no additional cost to residents and takes it to the transfer station in Oakland, where is it then taken to PERC. The city also has a contract with Shredding on Site on Armory Road so that residents can take their recyclables there at no charge.
As part of pay-as-you-throw, the city would continue to pick up trash at curbside, but would hire a private hauler, Sullivan Disposal, to collect recyclables and take them to Ecomaine in Portland, where they would be sorted.
The city would contract with a North Carolina based company, WasteZero, to coordinate the trash bag program. WasteZero would keep stores supplied with bags for residents to buy, track bag revenues and pay the city for its share. For instance, a 30-gallon bag would sell for $2; the city would get $1.65 from the sale of the bag and WasteZero would get 35 cents as part of the program. The city may designate what sized bags WasteZero would provide to stores.
In other matters Tuesday, councilors will consider taking a first vote to accept Federal Aviation and state Department of Transportation grants for reconstruction of the main runway at the city-owned Robert LaFleur Municipal Airport, as well as appropriate and spend the local share of funding for the project.
As part of the vote, councilors would approve contracting with Lane Construction for the $4.6 million construction, as well as with Stantec, the airport’s engineering consultant, for $182,633. Also as part of the council’s vote, $266,026 would be appropriated from a general obligation bond for the city’s share of the project.
Councilors also will consider:
• Applying for a $25,000 state DOT grant for a study to explore pedestrian crossing improvements at the intersection of Main, Front, Spring and Water streets. The study would require a $25,000 local match, with the money coming from Hathaway Creative Center tax increment financing funds.
• Approving a contract with Somerset County Communications Center for E-911 dispatching.
• Disposing of tax-acquired properties at 25 Oak, 12 Glidden, 11 Clark and 17-19 Begin streets, as well as 38 Carey Lane and 70 Airport Road. A tax-acquired, vacant lot on College Avenue also will be considered.