WATERVILLE — Ways to increase city revenues was a recurring theme in Tuesday night’s budget discussion.

City Councilors reviewed figures for the assessing, city clerk, finance, information technology and administrative departments in the proposed $16.9 municipal budget.

That budget and the proposed $19.8 million school budget represent a total proposed $36.8 million for 2012-13, which is $65,358 more than current spending.If the budgets pass as proposed, the property tax rate would rise to $25.65 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, increasing the amount the owner pays on a $100,000 home by $100.

Tuesday, councilors discussed, with Mayor Karen Heck and City Manager Michael Roy, possibly increasing business license fees, increasing fees to towns the city contracts with for Internet technology services and allowing residents to pay property taxes and other fees online and at City Hall with credit or debit cards. The city currently accepts cash and checks only.

“I want to look at every possible source of revenue,” Heck said.

Councilor Eliza Mathias, D-Ward 5, prompted  a discussion about residents using credit and debit cards to pay fees when she asked Josh Grant, the city’s technology director, if the city has ever explored processing city services online. Being able to do so would be a plus for people who work 9 to 5 and can not easily get to City Hall to pay bills, Mathias said.

Grant said legislation was passed in the last 18 months that allows those taking credit cards to pass on the processing fee, he said.

“Our internal infrastructure would allow us to do it; we’d have to make a methodology change to do it,” Grant said.

Mathias and Heck said it is important to make paying fees more convenient, whether people do it online or at the finance department window.

“Parks and Recreation could really use some online processing,” Mathias said.

Finance Director Chuck Calkins said the city could start accepting credit and debit cards, with the customer paying the fee that goes to the credit card company. While the city would not make money with that process, city officials Tuesday said the city could look into the possibility of making some money that way.

Councilor Erik Thomas, D-Ward 4, said allowing online payments could save the city some staff time.
Officials agreed the issue needs to be explored.

“Let’s put some time into looking at that,” Roy said.

In discussing heating costs, Mathias asked if the city is planning to pool fuel costs for all buildings. The schools and public library negotiate separately for fuel, she said.

“Are we looking to combine those to lower costs?” she asked.

Roy said the schools pre-pay for fuel and have been able to get better prices for last two years that way. The library has gone to propane and heat exchange systems.
“Why don’t we pre-pay?” Heck asked.

Roy said the city does not budget for that, but it could. He said he and Calkins will find out when the schools pre-pay.

Amy Calder — 861-9247
[email protected]

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