WATERVILLE — City councilors late Tuesday voted 5-1 to OK a proposed $37.7 million municipal and school budget for 2013-14.

But the vote did not come before Mayor Karen Heck had some harsh words for Gov. Paul LePage.

“This is really a ridiculous position for all of us to be in,” Heck said of the man who was mayor of the city from 2004 until he became governor in 2010.

“When the governor was mayor, clearly he used some profane language to describe exactly what he’s doing to us in a much worse way.”

Heck was referring to what she says is the state’s plan to place a financial burden on taxpayers.

The city still does not know if revenue sharing will be cut, how much the schools will get in state funding, or whether towns will have to fund part of teacher retirement.

The governor proposes to temporarily suspend revenue sharing to municipalities. The city last year got $1.6 million in revenue sharing, but was really due, by legislative mandate, to receive $2.3 million, according to Heck.

“I’m not sure why the governor is interested in making sure hospitals get paid,” she said. “But the mayors feel that the state needs to pay its bills when it comes to what it’s mandated to pay us in revenue sharing.”

Heck said she and some other mayors are “ticked off” that Democrats are proposing to give municipalities less revenue sharing than they received last year.

She said $198 million was issued statewide in revenue sharing last year.

Mayors in a press conference Wednesday plan to point out that people need to understand they’re not going to gain anything with the $400 million income tax cut passed last year, Heck told councilors.

People can decide whether to buy a car, food or drugs, but they may not decide to forego paying taxes and expect to keep their houses, she said.

She recommended the lodging tax be increased to help balance the budget.

“To not raise the lodging tax is absurd; to not raise the cigarette tax is absurd,” she said.

The mayors are making a case, but everybody has to call their legislators, she said.

She urged people to tell legislators not to cut what municipalities received last year in revenue sharing.

“You’re cheating us, and you’re not paying your own bills, and that’s wrong,” she said.

The proposed municipal budget is $17.4 million; the proposed school budget is $20 million.

If the budget passes as is, the tax rate would increase from $25.65 per $1,000 worth of property to $27.95 — a 9 percent increase. Heck said 75 percent of the municipal budget is for police, fire and public works.

Two more votes are needed to finalize the proposed budget.

Councilors decided to hold a special meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the new police station and then go back to the council chambers at The Center for a 7 p.m. meeting to discuss the proposed budget and consider further votes on the proposal.

Councilor John O’Donnell, D-Ward 5, was the lone dissenter in approving the budget Tuesday.

Councilor Karen Rancourt-Thomas, D-Ward 7, was absent from the session.

In other matters, the council voted to have City Manager Michael Roy work with Shredding on Site to develop a recycling program for the city and enter into a contract with the business that says either party may bow out with a 60-day notice. The recycling would be at no cost to the city.

Amy Calder — 861-9247
[email protected]

 

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