WATERVILLE — Voters will go to the polls June 11 to decide the fate of a proposed $20.1 million school budget for the coming school year.

Residents also will decide whether to continue the annual practice of voting to validate the budget. Voting will be 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the American Legion Hall on College Avenue.

City councilors voted 5-2 Tuesday to approve the June 11 date rather than a previously proposed date of July 15.

City officials say they do not expect to have firm budget numbers in June because the status of state revenue sharing likely will not be known; also, local municipalities do not know if they will have to share the cost for teacher retirement.

City Clerk Patti Dubois said she recommended the June 11 date for several reasons.

She said Waterville checked with many other municipalities who also do not have firm budget figures and Waterville appears to be the only one that planned to hold the referendum after July 1.

She said there is a question as to whether Waterville would actually have firm numbers by the end of June and if the city waits until July 15 to vote, many people who typically vote would be away on summer vacation.

School Superintendent Eric Haley said he agreed more people would likely vote on June 11, but if that date is chosen, teacher retirement money should be put into the budget in the event the Legislature votes to have municipalities pay for part of it.

“That cost is $293,000,” he said.

Councilor John O’Donnell, D-Ward 5, wondered aloud, however, if putting the money in the proposal sends a message that the city is OK with funding teacher retirement.

“Doesn’t that tell the Legislature, ‘They’re on board?'” O’Donnell asked.

Haley said Vassalboro included teacher retirement funds in its proposed budget and Waterville wants to be prepared, as the budget is stripped down and there is no more money to be had without cutting staff.

Mayor Karen Heck agreed with O’Donnell, saying the city would lose its leverage if it puts the money into the proposed budget.

Meanwhile, Dubois said a June referendum typically draws about 600 voters and if the city waits until July 15, she would expect that number to be reduced to at least 300.

Councilors Fred Stubbert, D-Ward 1, and Karen Rancourt-Thomas, D-Ward 7, voted against changing the referendum date from July 15 to June 11.

Rancourt-Thomas said she thinks Gov. Paul LePage is holding municipalities’ feet to the fire and Waterville needs to take a stand.

“It’s negligent of him to do this to us,” she said.

She emphasized that her vote was not about the budget itself.

“Enough’s enough,” she said.

In other matters Tuesday, councilors voted 4-3 to spend up to $100,000 for an aircraft tug unit, aircraft de-icing trailer unit, ground power unit, aircraft lavatory service cart, and for shipping costs for the city-owned Robert LaFleur Municipal Airport.

O’Donnell, Rancourt-Thomas and Councilor Michael Owens, D-Ward 2, opposed the purchases. Councilors voted 7-0 to spend up to $95,000 for a used fuel truck for the airport.

The council voted to lease out two parcels at the airport for construction of hangars and lease space in the city’s large hangar for a business to do aircraft detailing there.

Amy Calder — 861-9247
[email protected]