WATERVILLE — City councilors on Monday voted unanimously to repeal a vote they took last month to override Mayor Nick Isgro’s veto of the $38 million municipal and school budget, effectively deciding to re-open budget talks and consider cutting the budget.

The 7-0 vote followed pleas by several residents who said they can not afford to pay taxes in light of a recent citywide revaluation that boosted their taxes, even though the budget reduced the tax rate from $27.80 per $1,000 worth of assessed property value to $24.50. The council voted July 5 to approve the $38 million budget and Isgro vetoed it the next day.

Some residents said Monday that they felt ignored at the last City Council meeting, at which councilors voted to override Isgro’s veto. Many people spoke in favor of his veto, but the council voted to override it anyway.

Resident Leo St. Peter said councilors should vote the way their constituents want them to vote. It was nice the council decided since their last meeting to consider repealing their override of the veto, but it was like a shoplifter getting caught outside the store and saying he wants to pay for the item he stole, St. Peter said.

“It’s a little bit late,” he said.

He urged councilors to think outside the box when they go back to look at ways to reduce the budget.


“We’re asking you to cut hundreds of thousands of dollars,” he said.

The council Monday also voted 7-0 to approve an emergency measure that allows the city to continue spending money and operating until councilors approve a new budget. The budget became suspended when residents last month filed an affidavit with the city clerk, showing their intention to collect signatures from residents asking for the budget to be re-opened.

Councilors on Monday decided to hold a budget workshop at 6 p.m. Monday, Aug. 8, to discuss how to trim the budget. They will meet again at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 16 to consider cutting the budget and could make a final decision on a new budget that night.

Resident Scott Jones stood to give councilors three suggestions for cutting the budget. He said he is in charge of the budget and financial planning at Colby College and wanted to make it clear he was not speaking on behalf of Colby, but as a resident of the city.

He said the city might consider the 93 percent delinquency rate of people paying taxes and consider how to get it to 94 or 95 percent.

“That type of thing helps to move the needle,” he said.


He said the city could also try to move the needle on excise taxes and restructure long-term debt. Jones, who serves on finance committees for nonprofit groups and has worked to help raise money for school projects, urged councilors not to cut funding for schools in their efforts to reduce the budget, as doing so would undermine what the city and schools are tying to do.

“If you are going to make cuts, please avoid the schools,” he said.

Charlie Poulin, who lives in the city’s South End, said he was not happy with the city.

“They say one thing and do another,” he said of city officials.

He recalled some city officials telling him taxes would not go up if residents bought purple trash bags as part of a new trash collection system. He said residents voted for the purple bag system and now taxes are increasing.

“Then you get a tax bill of double your value — you know what I mean?” he said. “It doesn’t make sense.”


He said the way things are going, he is not going to be able to afford to live in his house, and he isn’t going to be able to afford being in a nursing home.

“The last place is the cemetery, and that’s tax-free and I won’t worry about it,” he said, walking out of the room. “I’ll see you later.”

Julian Payne said he walked the streets gathering petition signatures because he cares about the city and believes the way the situation that has “landed on the residents’ backs in one fell swoop is unjust and economic suicide.”

“You licked the land that feeds with the garbage bag fee; now you are starting to bite the hand that feeds,” Payne said.

He said that more than 33 percent of residents — more than 5,000 people, many of whom are seniors — are facing tax increases in the hundreds to thousands of dollars.

“How could anyone prepare for this?” he asked. “Their biggest investment has been devalued like a Wall Street crash.”


Residents, he said, are being scared off by their property tax bills. He said he believes $2 per $1,000 worth of valuation needs to be trimmed, not $1. The state average tax rate is $14.30 and Waterville’s tax rate is nearly 50 percent higher than that state average, according to Payne.

Resident Norton Webber said everyone has to live within a budget, and the city needs to find a new way to look at budgeting. City officials are counting on people moving into the city with all the investment that is to occur, but the city can not count on that because of the city’s high tax rate, Webber said.

“They may live in Fairfield or Winslow or some other place,” he said.

Resident Lisa Evans, librarian at Waterville Junior High School, said children come to school hungry and without backpacks, and food is provided for them to take home. Staff at the schools help pay for those children’s supplies, she said.

She said that she appreciates the fact that the budget has gone up over the years, but so has the cost of everything, including the cost of teaching.

“My husband and I live paycheck to paycheck, but in 15 years of living here, I can’t complain about the rise in taxes … because I want healthy schools.”


Sandy Sullivan said she attended the last council meeting and was extremely disappointed because she felt as though councilors’ minds were made up before she left the room. She said she is happy the council decided to consider re-opening the budget . She urged them to keep an open mind and consider cutting $2 or $3 per $1,000 instead of just $1.

Isgro told her he did not think any councilors have their minds made up about the budget and promised her that they will maintain an open mind while re-considering the budget.

Some residents said they felt slighted because some councilors criticized them for not attending budget meetings. Those residents said they can not attend all budget meetings because they work, and they elected councilors to represent them and do that budget work.

Hank Poirier said he was not at the last council meeting because he was working overtime so as to be able to pay his taxes. He thanked the council for “extending the olive branch” and agreeing to reconsider the budget.

Poirier said he probably will put a for-sale sign on his lawn, and that is sad.

“I hate to say it, guys — we don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem.”


His comment drew applause.

Councilor Dana Bushee, D-Ward 6, said residents are welcome to email councilors with their thoughts.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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