WATERVILLE — The city’s budget, passed over a veto from the mayor this week, is suspended as a citizens petition circulates among voters in the city in an effort to repeal Tuesday’s vote.

But the repeal may not be necessary if the City Council reconsiders its override and reopens the budget, which one councilor said it plans to do at its next meeting.

An affidavit to circulate the petition was filed with the city Friday morning. To successfully repeal the override, 857 registered Waterville voters must sign the petition and file it with the city by Aug. 9.

Meanwhile, the city won’t have an operating budget until a new one is passed, City Manager Michel Roy said. The fiscal year 2015-16 budget expired June 30, and the implications of the new budget being suspended were not immediately clear Friday afternoon.

Councilor Dana Bushee, of Ward 6, who voted in favor of the override, said Friday she is putting an item on the Aug. 1 City Council agenda to reconsider the override vote and begin budget discussions again.

If the item passes with a majority vote, which Bushee said she believes it will, she will recommend that a budget meeting be scheduled for the following Tuesday, Aug. 9, the same day the petition is due.


Bushee said if the budget is reopened, the goal will be to shave $1 off the $24.50 tax rate, which means $750,000 would have to be cut.

“If there are some non-essential services that we may be able to postpone to a future budget and take off another mill (from the tax rate) and we could come out unified as a council, I think that would make us feel a lot better,” Bushee said Friday.

Councilors voted 5-2 to override Isgro’s veto of the $38 million budget on Tuesday. More than 50 residents packed Council Chambers for the meeting, pleading with councilors to sustain the mayor’s veto of the budget and perhaps delay the recently completed revaluation, which is causing many tax bills to rise.

“This is the citizens of Waterville saying please, we elected you to look out for our interests and we asked you to look at the budget, and you ignored us,” said Jessica Laliberte, a city planning board member and a driving force behind the citizens petition. “We’re just asking the council to please look to see where they can make cuts.”

Bushee, Jackie Dupont, of Ward 7; John O’Donnell, of Ward 5; Rosemary Winslow, of Ward 3; and Nathaniel White, of Ward 2, voted in favor of overriding the budget veto. Councilors Steve Soule, of Ward 1, and Sydney Mayhew, of Ward 4, voted to sustain Isgro’s veto.

Isgro said Friday that council members “have had a lot more time to speak to constituents and understand more of the anxiety that was there.”


The $38 million budget paired with the revaluation decreased the city’s tax rate from $27.80 to $24.50 per $1,000 worth of assessed property. However, the revaluation shifted the tax burden from commercial property taxpayers to residential taxpayers, according to Roy, causing many tax bills to increase because of a higher property value. Some bills will decrease and some will stay the same. Isgro and other city officials said that postponing the new values — a possibility some councilors raised Tuesday — would cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars. Tax bills will be sent out next month.

Waterville resident Julian Payne, an organizer of the petition, said he plans to boycott city businesses and eventually move out of Waterville because of rising taxes.

Under the revaluation his tax bill will increase from $2,000 to $2,900. Fairfield’s $21.70 per $1,000 worth of assessed property is the next highest in the area, Payne said, adding he fears Waterville’s tax rate will stunt its future growth.

“If you’re any higher than your nearest competitor, no one is going to move in,” Payne said. “You’ve essentially killed the city.”

Payne, who has lived in Waterville since 1993, said after his daughter graduates from Thomas College in three years, he will move out of Waterville in fear of the tax rate increasing more. He said Tuesday’s override vote, despite the pleas of residents at the meeting, caused a rift between the residents and the city.

“There is also a feeling of anger and betrayal in the town,” Payne said. “I’m not loyal to the town anymore. I’ll get my $900 back by boycotting restaurants and businesses.”


Isgro said if the budget is reopened, he encourages residents to attend budget meetings so they can see what is happening firsthand with the budgets and can stress their issues with councilors.

“We had months of budget meetings,” he said. “I can’t force people to show up to those. Now I think people will understand the importance of coming.”

Isgro said while he can’t comment on what firm cuts will be made if the budget is reopened, he said individual departments may suggest voluntary cuts.

“There is certainly room for cuts. It doesn’t mean it’s not going to hurt,” Isgro said. “But some of these tax increases are going to hurt residents.”

Bushee said that while she is willing to go back to discussions and is interested in making cuts, she would not support cuts to essential services such as police officers or teachers. She said she is not sure how much decreasing the tax rate by a dollar per thousand would even help those struggling with the increase in their tax bills due to the revaluation.

“The problem is just to get to a mill we have to get to $750,000 in cuts, and that’s pretty difficult,” Bushee said. “The question is have we done everything possible that we would probably do and I guess that’s one we have to answer.”


The vote to override the budget veto has increased tensions among councilors, residents and even the mayor, who has expressed his frustration with the vote on social media. Before the meeting had adjourned on Tuesday night, Isgro took his frustration with the councilors’ actions to Twitter.

“Waterville council lives up to reputation. Ignores constituents and sticks it to the taxpayers again. Elections have consequences,” Isgro tweeted Tuesday night.

In a subsequent tweet he accused White of only voting in favor of the override because Winslow voted in favor. On Wednesday, after Bushee told the Morning Sentinel that she had heard Isgro and Councilor Mayhew talking about cutting police officers and teachers in discussions about the budget, Isgro wrote on his Facebook that her accusations were “a flat lie to save face.”

In the days since the comments were made, Isgro has reached out White and apologized and apologized for what he said on Twitter. Isgro and Bushee have since talked and Isgro apologized for acting hastily in regards to his Facebook post, though he stands by his assertion that he never said that he would cut school teachers and police officers from the budget. Bushee said with tempers cooling down among the council, she is hopeful reopening the budget will be productive.

Lauren Abbate — 861-9252

[email protected]

Twitter: @Lauren_M_Abbate

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.