WATERVILLE– City councilors on Tuesday took a first vote to approve a proposed $36 million municipal and school budget for 2012-13.

Two more votes are needed to approve the budget.

If the budget gets final approval, the current tax rate of $24.65 per $1,000 of valuation would increase to about $25.65, meaning a person who owns a home worth $100,000 would pay $100 more a year in taxes.

Councilors approved the budget after Mayor Karen Heck asked if anyone had questions about the proposal. No one did.

At a budget workshop before the meeting, Council Chairman Fred Stubbert, D-Ward 1, commended city officials, including Finance Director Chuck Calkins and City Manager Michael Roy, for their work on the budget.

“You guys have done such a good job controlling city expenditures in the last couple of years,” he said.

Roy said Monday that while the actual increase in the proposed budget from the current one is very small, the tax rate is expected to increase because the city is getting less in state revenue sharing. He said the city is down $1.3 million compared to what it was getting in 2008 and the city has had to use surplus since then to make up for the loss.

In other matters Tuesday, councilors took final votes to guarantee a $1.25 million loan to the Waterville Opera House to complete its $4.9 million renovation/addition project.

James LaLiberty, representing the Opera House, said work on a freight elevator, set construction building, stair tower and exterior finish is yet to be completed.

“We are within five weeks of being completely done and finishing with this project,” he said.

The loan was needed because the project cost increased by about $600,000 and construction bills were coming in faster than pledge money.

The Opera House had a grand reopening Friday night that included song and dance numbers from musicals, performances by the Bossov Ballet and clips from the Maine International Film Festival.

Councilors on Tuesday also took final votes to approve an ordinance prohibiting smoking at city-owned playgrounds and the entire North Street Recreation Area, including the playground, swimming pool areas and boat landing. Violators will be fined $50.

Stubbert praised Councilor George Myers Jr., D-Ward 2, for spearheading the ordinance initiative.

“He’s put a lot of work on this particular subject and I think it’s well overdue,” Stubbert said.

Heck also thanked members of a special committee that worked with Myers on the smoking issue.

Heck read a proclamation recognizing May as National Preservation Month. She called on people to take a historic walking tour in the city that includes Redington Museum on Silver Street, the Waterville Public Library on Elm Street and the Two-Cent Bridge at Head of Falls.

Heck praised Shannon Haines, executive director of Waterville Main Street, who is spearheading an effort to establish a National Historic District downtown. Councilors took a first vote to appropriate $10,000 from downtown tax increment financing money to hire a firm to complete the process for getting federal approval for creating such a district.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]


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