WATERVILLE — The City Council on Tuesday will consider approving a proposed municipal and school budget for 2017-2018 that Mayor Nick Isgro says is a good compromise that ensures school funding while giving residents property tax relief.

The council meeting will be at 7 p.m. in the council chambers on the third floor of The Center at 93 Main St. downtown and will be preceded by an executive session at 6:30 p.m. to discuss real estate negotiations.

The council must take two votes to approve the proposed municipal and school budget, but may take only one vote Tuesday night. City Manager Michael Roy said councilors on Tuesday will consider cutting about $262,500 from Roy’s originally recommended $18,559,623 budget. They also will consider two additions totaling $181,700 — the cost of a new recycling truck and videotaping for council meetings.

The proposed cuts include reduction of a code enforcement officer from full to half time, $50,000 in paving, eliminating purchase of two police cruisers and reducing a proposed cost of living increase for city employees and reducing the city’s contribution to health insurance.

The city’s tax rate of $22.80 per $1,000 worth of valuation would be reduced by $1.38 for homeowners who qualify for the homestead exemption, Roy said. An increase of 50 cents per $1,000 will be added for a net decrease in the tax rate of 0.8 — nearly a mill decrease, he said.

“I think it’s been a very good example of cooperation, compromise, and it’s really, I think, what the budget process is supposed to be about — give and take,” he said. “And so while it doesn’t contain everything everybody wanted, it’s something for just about everyone, I think.”

Meanwhile, the Waterville Board of Education early Monday voted to make $158,905 in cuts and adjustments to the proposed $21.6 million school budget. The board met at 7:30 a.m. Monday at the superintendent’s office to consider approving $233,985 in cuts and adjustments but decided to cut less than that.

The order councilors will vote on Tuesday says the proposed municipal budget is $18.6 million and the proposed school budget, $21,462,994, but those numbers will change, according to city officials.

Mayor Nick Isgro did not attend the school board meeting and said later Monday that he could not comment on what the school board did Monday, but he thinks it will be difficult to get councilors to make a last-minute change in the proposed budget, as they have worked hard to come up with a proposal that will ensure adequate funding for schools and provide tax relief.

Isgro said he and Roy and Council Chairman Steve Soule, D-Ward 1, spoke with each of the seven councilors to try to figure out what it would take to get a budget approved and really came up with a “grand compromise.”

“Effectively, homeowners will see their bill go down and not up this year,” Isgro said.

He said officials really tried to look at what the city’s needs will be for the next two or three years in determining a proposed budget.

“I’m really optimistic about tomorrow night, and I think the community as a whole can come together and embrace what will be not only a strong budget, but one that allows us to fulfill capital needs and not run into this fiscal clip next year,” he said.

Last year, the council approved a proposed $37.6 million municipal and school budget that reduced the tax rate by $5, from $27.80 per $1,000 to $22.80.

The school board previous to Monday had cut and adjusted the initial proposed school budget to reduce it by $438,881. The board also was able to realize $98,696 in savings because of lower insurance costs than expected.

Instead of cutting $233,985 on Monday, board members voted to cut only $158,985 because they decided to put two teacher aide positions, classified as ed tech IIIs, back in the proposed budget to relieve pressure and stress on staff, for a total cost of $60,000. They also decided to put $15,000 in the proposal for surveillance cameras for Waterville Senior High School, an item that had been proposed but cut earlier in the budget. School officials said the cameras were badly needed to monitor inappropriate behavior by students during the school day. Currently, teachers must fill in as hall monitors, taking critical time away from class.

Included in the proposed cuts the board approved Monday were a reduction from 3 percent to 2 percent in the projected salary increase for teachers, staff and administrators, and replacing retiring teachers or those leaving the district at the “master’s five” level — those who have a master’s degree and five years experience.

Prior to the discussion about adding two ed techs and funding the high school cameras, some school board members said they were concerned about the budget because it does not provide relief from stress placed on staff and teachers or help improve quality of school programs.

Member Pam Trinward said that the school board reached out to parents for support and parents gave it by attending public meetings and speaking out. If the board does not do what it promises, Trinward said, parents will not tend to support it in the future.

She said the board has heard over and over again that the high school is understaffed. The board, she said, must conscientiously fight to improve education in Waterville by supporting staff.

Member Susan Reisert agreed with Trinward, saying she was “really concerned about cutting, cutting, cutting,” and what it means for students and teachers. Member Joan Phillips-Sandy said she was concerned about inadequate funding for high school programs and teachers and the lack of teachers to cover study halls.

“Let’s build a plan for next year’s budget where we say, ‘What will it take to offer courses we’re not offering?'” she said.

Asked to comment on the need for cameras at the high school, Principal Brian Laramee said there is no way to track those who engage in inappropriate behavior, as often a report is made 20 to 30 minutes after an incident occurs. In Winslow, cameras have saved administrators a lot of headache and work, he said.

The cameras would serve as an extra set of eyes for teachers and administrators who can not physically be in the halls, he said. Teachers give up class prep time to be hall monitors because the administrative team is over-extended, he said.

He and Reisert talked about the lack of having enough sections of a course students need to take, making it difficult for them to fit the course into their schedules.

“Those kids need to have choices — we need to have flexibility and not have difficult decisions to make,” Reisert said.

Trinward said that in the past, 50 percent of tax dollars went to the municipality and 50 percent to schools and that has changed, with less and less going to schools.

“If you want people to move to Waterville instead of Winslow and Fairfield, you have to start spending money on the schools,” she said.

She added that if money is not added to the school budget incrementally, it will never happen.

Her comments launched a discussion about what can be done incrementally, with Reisert taking the lead and asking if cameras should be installed in the high school. Phillips-Sandy quickly jumped in.

“I can’t see having our teachers being hall monitors, giving their prep time up for it — I mean, seriously?” she said.

Reisert pushed for spending $15,000 for the cameras, with board member Maryanne Bernier saying they are important for security and safety and parents are concerned about inappropriate behaviors occurring in schools.

“Fifteen-thousand dollars is not a big chunk — we can consume that,” she said.

Trinward reminded those present that cost per pupil in Waterville is low.

“We’re sitting here as adults,” she said. “As a school board we need to be advocating for schools. That’s our job.”

Board Chairman Sara Sylvester said she thinks the board must plan for next year.

“I think we have to decide as a board, as administrators, what are the six things that need to come back — that need to be worked on,” she said.

Waterville Junior High School Principal Carole Dodge said teachers need help in classrooms and the best way to reduce stress and lighten the burden on teachers is to hire ed techs.

“I think every building could use two ed techs and not just ed tech I, but higher level,” she said.

In other matters at Tuesday’s meeting, the council will consider a complaint filed by Chris Rancourt, a candidate for the Ward 4 council seat, that there is the appearance of conflict of interest with Councilor Lauren Lessing, D-Ward 3, because she votes on school funding and her husband works for a city school.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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