WATERVILLE — City Manager Michael Roy is proposing to eliminate an administrative position in the Public Works Department as a way to cut costs in the proposed 2016-17 municipal budget.

Roy said Tuesday night at a budget workshop that he had to figure out ways to keep the proposed budget as low as he could, and eliminating the position is an option. The project manager-engineer position, held 11 years by Bob Gilchrist, represents $93,420, including benefits, according to the city’s finance director, Chuck Calkins. Gilchrist was not at the budget meeting and he was unavailable for comment late Tuesday.

Public Works Director Mark Turner attended the meeting with Assistant City Engineer John Lombardi, who would take on some of Gilchrist’s duties if Gilchrist’s position is eliminated, according to Roy.

“I know Mark has some feelings about losing that position and I think you should ask him about it,” Roy told councilors and Mayor Nick Isgro.

Isgro asked Turner what his thoughts were about losing the position.

Turner said he supports Roy. Without naming Gilchrist, Turner said he is a close associate and they share management styles and philosophies. Gilchrist has a lot of institutional knowledge and skill, and his value to the department is more than what money can buy, according to Turner.

“This individual is always there on the job, every single day,” he said. “This individual has a very, very, very deep set of skills that’s going to be difficult to replace.”

Asked if the department can do without the position, Turner said it can, although it would be a difficult loss for him personally.

“I think overall, we’ll make do,” Turner said. “We can do it. We always have.”

The Public Works Department is the city’s largest, with a proposed budget of $3.8 million for 2016-17. The Police Department is the second-largest department, with a proposed $3.1 million budget, according to Roy.

The proposed public works budget reflects a 1.34 percent increase over the current budget.

Increases are reflected in wages and salaries, operational costs and an increase in the traffic system maintenance account. The high-tech system is costly to maintain.

Councilors have been reviewing proposed budgets for city departments over the last few weeks. In March, they got a first look at a proposed $18.2 million municipal budget for 2016-17 that represents a $704,000 increase from the 2015-16 budget. They also got to see a proposed $21.8 million school budget that represents a 2.85 percent increase over the current $21.1 million budget.

Officials stressed that the proposals were just drafts and that the numbers would change as the budget process progressed.

At the time, Roy presented a budget message to Isgro and councilors showing a graph of the city’s revenue-sharing history and the significant decline over the last several years in the amount of money the city receives from the state. He said the decline has been constant every year, with an average loss of more than $1 million. The city’s surplus dropped from $10.7 million in 2008 to $5.9 million in 2015.

Last year, the council approved a $37.4 million municipal and school budget for 2015-16, increasing the then-tax rate of $27.40 per $1,000 worth of valuation to $27.80.

Of the proposed $704,000 increase in the 2016-17 municipal budget, $332,000 is for an increase in debt service and $40,000 is reflected in additional retirement costs for police.

In past year, the city used surplus to help fill the budget gap; it also raised the tax rate, delayed capital improvements and refrained from adding new positions, according to Roy.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17