WATERVILLE — The City Council on Tuesday voted unanimously to finalize a $40 million municipal and school budget for 2017-18 that represents a tax increase of only 53 cents per $1,000 worth of valuation, but also includes a new police cruiser, one education technician III position and security cameras for the high school.

The 7-0 vote resulted in a budget that is 3.1 percent greater than the $39 million budget councilors approved for 2016-17. The tax rate of $22.80 per $1,000 worth of property valuation increases by 53 cents, to $23.33 per $1,000, which means a homeowner with a house valued at $100,000 will pay $2,333 in taxes, a $53 increase from last year’s $2,280. Property owners who qualify for the homestead exemption will see their tax rate reduced from the full rate, however, by 88 cents per $1,000 worth of property valuation for primary residences, according to Mayor Nick Isgro.

The schools last week requested that two education technician III positions and security cameras for the high school be added to the proposed budget; the city had wanted a new police cruiser in addition to a cruiser Colby College is buying for the city.

The council on July 25 voted unanimously to approve a proposed $40 million municipal and school budget that did not include $75,000 for two education technicians and the security cameras as requested by the Waterville Board of Education, but councilors said they would explore possibilities for funding those items before Tuesday’s final vote.

Isgro, City Manager Michael Roy and councilors discussed the issue during the last week and all supported maintaining a 53-cent increase in the tax rate the council approved July 25, Isgro said earlier in the day Tuesday.

With the proposal to fund one education technician and the security cameras for the schools, as well as a cruiser for the Police Department, a compromise was reached that worked for everyone, Isgro said.

Isgro said at Tuesday’s meeting that Roy and the city’s finance director, Heather Rowden, were able to study the numbers to look at options for more revenue or reduced expenses so the three items could be funded in the budget.

Roy and Rowden recommended $53,000 in spending decreases in the proposed budget, including $25,000 for plow gear, $10,000 in a Fire Department boiler because a quote came in below the estimate, $3,000 for the Fire Department heating budget, and $15,000 in electricity, across departments. They recommended $24,000 be used from downtown tax increment financing money, for a total of $77,000 to be used for the cruiser, the education technician and the security cameras. The cruiser would cost $32,000; the education technician, $30,000; and the cameras, $15,000.

“I’m incredibly happy with it,” Isgro said earlier Tuesday of the budget change. “I’m happy to see that everybody was able to come together and keep the continued spirit of working together to fit our needs as best we could, and part of that need is staying in the parameters we had set for the taxpayers as well. I think that’s very important.”

Isgro said it is important to note that, when parameters are set, it is still possible to find ways to make a budget work for everybody. He added that Council Chairman Steve Soule, D-Ward 1, and Councilor Winifred Tate, D-Ward 6, worked hard to find common ground on the new budget numbers.

“I think there’s a good deal of thanks that we also owe to Councilor Soule and Councilor Tate,” Isgro said. “The two of them have been incredibly engaged in helping to see that this continued compromise happened. I think this is a real positive outcome for the community.”

At Tuesday’s meeting, Isgro also commended the school’s finance director, Paula Pooler, as well as Rowden, calling them “unsung heroes.”

“They don’t get all the credit they deserve. They do the majority of all the real hard detail work,” he said.

School board member Susan Reisert, who fought for the two education technicians and security cameras for the high school, stood to say school board members were pleased with the change in the proposed budget that included the school requests. She said that, with all the talk about everyone getting along and working together, she thought Isgro should apologize for the “very harsh” words he used last week in a Facebook post reflecting an email he had sent out, criticizing the school board for voting to add items to the proposed budget. He also said in that post that he would veto a budget if the total were increased.

“I think this might be a nice opportunity to retract those words or apologize for them,” Reisert said to Isgro.

The mayor did not respond to her request and instead called for a vote on the proposed budget.

Councilor Sydney Mayhew, R-Ward 4, earlier commended all who worked on the budget, including administrators, Roy, Isgro and councilors, and said he is proud to be on the council.

In other matters, councilors voted to sell 19 Summer St. to Donald Zaltzburg and spend up to $19,500 to repair the roof above the main entrance to Waterville Public Library.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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