WATERVILLE — Councilors want to trim a proposed $37.7 million municipal and school budget to $37 million in response to learning the city will likely lose some state revenue sharing and have to pay part of teacher retirement costs.

Property taxes are still expected to rise, though the budget faces additional votes.

State Reps. Thomas R.W. Longstaff and Henry Beck, both Waterville Democrats, updated the council Tuesday night on a compromise proposed by the Joint Standing Committee on Appropriations and Financial Affairs that would restore only $125 million in revenue sharing to municipalities.

Gov. Paul LePage proposes revenue sharing of $200 million be temporarily suspended.

The city last year received $1.6 million in revenue sharing and hoped for the same this year. City Manager Michael Roy said if the proposed Appropriations Committee compromise passes, which is expected, Waterville would lose about $548,000 in revenue sharing; in other words, Waterville would receive only about $1.1 million.

“Out of 494 communities, Waterville is the 24th hardest hit — close to a full mill of lost revenue for us,” he said.

With that expected hit to revenue sharing — and if the city has to pay an expected $293,000 in teacher retirement costs — the property tax rate would increase by $3.20 per $1,000 of assessed value, according to Roy.

With LePage vowing to veto the state budget proposal, the question is whether the Legislature has the votes to override his veto.

Councilors Tuesday decided to cut the proposed $37.7 million budget to reduce that tax increase to $2 per $1,000 worth of valuation. If the $2 stands, the tax rate would increase from $25.65 to $27.65. In other words, a person who has $100,000 worth of property and paid $2,565 in taxes would pay $2,765, or a $200 increase.

Councilors Tuesday said they want to cut $250,000 in road paving money, reduce the public works budget by $100,000, cut $26,000 in miscellaneous costs and increase the amount of surplus to be used from $1 million to $1.4 million.

Roy said the council on Tuesday will consider taking a second vote on the proposed $37 million municipal and school budget. The budget will still need a third vote to pass.

On Tuesday, some councilors said they thought a $2 property tax increase is the best the city can do without harming programs and cutting staff. Others said $2 is too much.

“I don’t like a $2 mill increase,” Councilor John O’Donnell, D-Ward 5, said.

Councilor Eliza Mathias, D-Ward 6, agreed.

“I don’t either,” she said.

Councilor Fred Stubbert, D-Ward 1, said he also was opposed to a $2 increase.

The council decided not to take a second vote on a proposed budget Tuesday.

“I would say, let’s think about it,” Mathias said.

At one point, discussions became somewhat contentious.

Council Chairman Erik Thomas, D-Ward 4, said his feeling is that $2 is about as good as the city can hope to get.

“Do you own a home, Erik?” O’Donnell asked.

“I don’t,” Thomas replied.

“OK,” O’Donnell retorted.

Later, Mayor Karen Heck said Thomas represents people who do own homes.

Roy said Wednesday that the 132-132 tie in Tuesday’s vote on whether to continue the process for school budget validation prompted a recount Wednesday and the tie stood. In the case of a tie, the question effectively is defeated.

Amy Calder — 861-9247
[email protected]

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