WATERVILLE — Mayor Karen Heck on Tuesday night issued her oft-repeated message to state legislators:

“Stop shifting costs to taxpayers.”

Heck, successor to former Waterville mayor and now Gov. Paul LePage, spoke during a joint meeting of the Board of Education and City Council to discuss a proposed $37.3 million municipal and school budget for 2013-14.

City councilors and school board members must tell constituents what is happening in the state Legislature because it affects local taxpayers, she said.

“This is not so much an expenditure problem as a revenue problem,” she said.

She recommends the state double its lodging tax and increase the sales tax to help boost revenues.

“People coming in from out of state are the majority of people paying that (lodging tax),” she said.

People must make their voices heard or they will be paying higher property taxes, she said.

The city and schools are trying to develop budgets for 2013-14 without knowing the amount of state subsidy the city will receive from the state, whether the city will have to help fund teacher retirement and whether the state will suspend state revenue sharing.

Heck said the city should not have to fund teacher retirement.

“I just think it’s still important to tell all of your constituents, ‘Don’t put this teacher retirement on the towns without giving them money to do it,'” she said. “I just think it’s important to add everybody’s voice to this debate now, because now is the best opportunity to make something happen.”

The city in the last few years has trimmed positions from 127 to 110, she said. City officials have consolidated, coordinated and bought equipment with other towns to try to cut costs and increase efficiency.

“We’ve done a lot of these things that we can discuss, and it’s not true that there’s a lot of fat at the local level,” she said.

City Councilor John O’Donnell, D-Ward 5, asked School Superintendent Eric Haley if he had a sense as to whether revenue sharing will be cut and whether local municipalities will have to help fund teacher retirement.

Haley said he has a pretty strong sense from talking to people in the know that a proposal to cut revenue sharing is dead in the water.

“But I don’t have a sense on the teacher retirement,” he said.

School board member and former state Rep. Pamela Trinward said the problem is that lots of city council members in the state do not contact legislators about funding issues until after the municipalities receive their subsidy numbers.

Heck said if the state started assessing taxes in a way that is fair, it would collect enough money to pay its bills.

“That is the answer,” she said. “We’ve been told for 30 years that taxes are bad. People are finding out they want their roads fixed, schools good, garbage picked up.”

The School board on Monday voted to cut $644,481 from a proposed $20.8 million school budget for 2013-14, trimming it to $20.1 million.

The proposed municipal budget is $17.1 million.

Meanwhile, councilors voted Tuesday to set a school budget validation referendum vote for July 15 because they’ve been told they will not know state subsidy and other figures until June.

The city is required to have a referendum within 30 days of the council’s final vote on the municipal and school budgets.

Amy Calder — 861-9247
[email protected]

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