WATERVILLE — One of the reasons Waterville’s tax rate is higher than that of Winslow, Fairfield and Oakland is that the city’s properties are assessed at 80 percent of valuation, rather than at 100 percent.

Waterville’s tax rate is $24.65 per $1,000 worth of valuation whereas Winslow, Fairfield and Oakland’s tax rates are $15.50, $19.20 and $13.05, respectively.

Mayor Karen Heck and City Manager Michael Roy used those figures Tuesday night as part of their presentation on how the municipal budget is developed, why taxes are what they are and the fiscal challenges the city faces.

About 30 residents, city officials and current and former state legislators turned out for the session at Waterville Public Library.

Heck plans to hold meetings monthly for the public to learn about how city government works, ask questions and give input. She said the forums are being held at the library because people may view the venue as less intimidating than City Hall.

“If you have issues and ideas for topics you’d like to see discussed, let us know,” Heck said.

Roy explained that the tax bill for a property valued at $100,000 in the city is $2,465.

A tax bill is a result of two variables — the tax rate and the value the city puts on a property, Roy said.

“It’s all relative to what the community is assessing a property at,” he said. “Is it at 100 percent or not?”

Former state representative Marilyn Canavan asked why communities are assessed at different percentages.

Roy said it all has to do with how often a community has a revaluation. Waterville last had a revaluation in the early 90s, he said. Fairfield had a revaluation two years ago; Oakland, about four years ago; and Winslow, in the last couple of years, Roy said.

The city had planned to do a revaluation but then the financial meltdown occurred in 2008, he said.

“What’s the cost of a revaluation?” Heck asked.

“It’s a lot of money — $350,000,” Roy said.

Fairfield Town Manager Joshua Reny said Fairfield’s revaluation cost $200,000.

The city budget for the current year is about $16 million; the school budget is about $20 million, for a total of about $36 million Roy said.

The municipal budget represents expenditures, estimated revenues and proposed capital improvement expenditures, he said.

State revenue sharing has decreased significantly in the last few years, which put pressure on municipalities and resulted in higher property taxes.

The city’s second largest source of revenues is vehicle excise taxes, according to Roy.

Heck noted that by law, the state is supposed to reimburse or pay 55 percent of school budgets.

“They’ve never done that,” she said.

Resident Bernie Huebner said that he attended the meeting out of curiosity.

“I think it’s a real good step for any municipal government trying to engage its citizenry,” he said.

Huebner said he hopes a range of topics will be discussed at future meetings.

“Knowing Karen a little bit — she’s a visionary. I was looking for what her long-range vision of the city is, but I’ll have to come back to another meeting to find out.”

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

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