WATERVILLE — City councilors on Tuesday will consider taking a first vote on a proposed $36.4 million municipal and school budget for 2011-12.
The special meeting will be held at 6 p.m. in the council chambers at The Center downtown.
Councilors must take three votes on the budget. A second vote could be taken April 19 and a third vote, May 3 or 17, according to City Manager Michael Roy.
If the budget were passed as is, the tax rate would increase 75 cents, from the current rate of $24.15 per $1,000 or valuation to $24.90, he said.
In other words, currently, a person who owns property assessed at $100,000 pays $2,415 in taxes. He or she would pay $2,490, or a $75 increase, if the current proposal is approved.
Roy said Monday that the first vote is being taken to get the budget moving. The budget figures are not cast in stone.
“We certainly expect those numbers to change,” he said. “It’s a vote by the council to just start the budget approval process because of course, it takes three readings for the city budget to be approved. And with the school budget having to go to referendum in June and the fact that we have to have ballots available so many days before, we’re required to have final approval of the budget in mid-May. In order to meet that mid-May deadline, we have to start now.”
The current municipal and school budget, for 2010-11, is $35.3 million. The proposed budget increase is reflected in negotiated salary contracts, fuel and insurance increases, as well as a $3 million bond, Roy said Monday.
 The bond is for Waterville Opera House renovations; improvements to Campus Drive, which runs past the Aflond Athletic Center at Colby College; Quarry Road Recreation area improvements; public works equipment the city delayed purchasing from last year; and repairs to the Fire Department tower truck.
The proposed municipal budget is $16.2 million; the proposed school budget is $20.1 million. The school budget proposal represents a 4.37 percent increase over the current $19.3 million school budget. The Board of Education took a first vote on that proposal March 10.
City councilors have discussed the need for a new police station, and whether the city should borrow money for that project now as well.
The estimated cost for such a station is $2 million, according to Roy.
If the city were to include funding in the bond for a new police station, the tax rate would increase a full mill, or $1. In other words, the current tax rate of $24.15 per $1,000 worth of valuation would increase to $25.15, according to Roy.
Councilors are divided about whether to build a police station now or start the process and do it in the next three years.
Council Chairman Dana Sennett, D-Ward 4, opposes borrowing now for a police station.
“I’m not willing to support an additional increase in the present budget,” Sennett said Monday. “As a matter of fact, I’d like to see additional savings.”
He said he’d like to see the proposed budget slashed by $200,000, possibly by asking that $100,000 be reduced from the municipal budget and $100,000 from the school budget.
“That’s what I’d like to see,” he said. “Whether it’s going to happen or not is entirely up to the council.”
Sennett, a candidate for mayor, is filling many duties of the mayor while the city is without one until the June election.
He said he believes the administration has done it’s due diligence as far as developing a budget and now the council will have its say. Sennett said he thinks it unfortunate that the city did not borrow money for needs last year when the interest rates would have been better.
“Paul (LePage, former mayor) didn’t want to do that, and it didn’t have the support of the council at the time,” Sennett said, adding that that’s what happens when projects are deferred.
Voters have the final say on the school budget at a citywide referendum June 14.
After considering a first vote on the proposed budget Tuesday, councilors are scheduled to discuss with department heads the following budgets: assessing, city clerk, finance, administration and information technology. Also, they will discuss debt service.

Amy Calder — 861-9247
[email protected]

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