WATERVILLE — The Waterville Board of Education voted 6-0 Tuesday to tweak the proposed school budget for 2018-19 so to reduce it by about $200,000, and City Manager Michael Roy and city Finance Director Heather Rowden proposed a list of changes to lower the municipal budget by $200,000 as well.

The object, according to Roy and Rowden, is to reduce the increase in the proposed budget from three mills to two.

Three mills is equivalent to $3 per $1,000 worth of property valuation, so if a property is valued at $100,000, for instance, and the tax or mill rate increases by $3, the property owner would pay an increase of $300 in taxes. If the tax or mill rate were increased by $2, the property owner would have to pay $200 more in taxes with the new budget.

The City Council is scheduled to vote on the proposed municipal and school budget June 5 — next Tuesday night — and a second, final vote June 19, though councilors could decide to change the date for a final vote. They also could lower or increase the amount of the proposed budget.

Before Tuesday, the proposed municipal and school budget for 2018-19 was $42.3 million. The proposed school budget was $24 million and the proposed municipal budget was $18.3 million. If that budget were approved, the tax or mill rate would increase from $23.30 per $1,000 worth of valuation to $26.30 per $1,000.

School officials Tuesday morning called a special school board meeting at 5 p.m. Tuesday to consider the school budget changes, though Maine’s Freedom of Access law requires that notice of a meeting be given in ample time to allow the public to attend and the notice shall be disseminated in a manner as to reasonable notify the public. Generally speaking, same-day notice is not ample notice, but school officials wanted to be able to fulfill Roy’s request of last week to cut the school budget by $200,000 as the council was to meet Tuesday night for a budget workshop.

School superintendent Eric Haley said Roy asked the schools to “reduce their request for new local taxes by $200,000.”

“I make that distinction because you can reduce it by cutting expenditures or adding more revenue,” Haley said. “We did a combination of both.”

The school board in its vote Tuesday cut $140,000 from its proposed budget and decided to use $60,000 from money expected to be left over in the current 2017-18 budget to meet Roy’s $200,000 reduction. Board member Pam Trinward was absent from the meeting.

School Finance Director Paula Pooler said that prior to Tuesday, the school budget was asking $975,990 in new taxes, but with the changes made Tuesday, the budget calls for $775,339 in new taxes.

Typically, the schools do not have a lot of leftover money in the budget, but Haley said it has been a good year financially for schools where expenditures were less than expected and revenues were more than expected. The $140,000 reduction was met by cutting $31,797 for a one-on-one special education technician III for Waterville Senior High School because the student the technician was to work with is transferring to a different school; reducing a district-wide social worker salary by $41,509 because Maine Care is paying for half the salary; and several needed items will be paid for in the current budget rather than in the 2018-19 budget.

The items include $25,000 for a heat recovery unit for C-Wing and a $3,130 12-gallon carpet extractor at George J. Mitchell School; $18,000 for cameras and monitors, $2,700 for an 8-gallon carpet extractor and $6,000 for bathroom stalls, all for Waterville Junior High School; $4,983 for exterior doors and $3,130 for a 12-gallon carpet extractor for Albert S. Hall School; and $3,130 for a 12-gallon carpet extractor for Waterville Senior High School. A $22,794 telephone lease would be paid early, in this budget year, and $26,413 would be added to make up for an anticipated increase in the projected fuel oil price.

Pooler emphasized that $200,000 was not cut from expenditures in the proposed budget — $140,000 was cut and $60,000 in revenues represented the rest of the $200,000 reduction.

Meanwhile, at a 7 p.m. council budget workshop, attended by school officials and board members, Roy presented a list of proposed cuts to the municipal budget that included $14,950 that the city will not pay to The Center in rental space, including for the council meetings; $31,771 to keep a part-time position in the city clerk’s office at part time; $32,500 cut by eliminating purchase of a police cruiser; $20,000 cut in road maintenance funds; $56,678 for not filling a position in public works; and $10,000 for a part time and temporary position at the fire department.

Recommended revenue sources include $200,000 expected to be left over from the 2017-18 municipal budget and increasing use of funds issued to the city from Penobscot Energy Recovery Corp. because the city ended its contract with PERC. The proposed budget would have used $460,000 in PERC funds but Roy recommended a $30,000 increase in that total.

With Roy and Rowden’s recommended budget changes, the original proposed budget increase of $2.27 million dollars would be lowered to $1.59 million over the current budget.

The council did not vote on the manager’s proposed changes Tuesday. While Trinward was not at the school board meeting, she did attend the council workshop.

About 30 people turned out in the council chamber for the budget workshop where Council Chairman Steve Soule, D-Ward 1, asked about the status of a school resource officer in the budget.

“Will there be one or will there not be one?” he asked.

Roy said there is a resource officer in the proposed municipal budget.

Ward 3 resident Thomas Klepach noted that the second-largest item on the list of municipal cuts is a police cruiser and asked about the status of the city’s police fleet.

Police Chief Joseph Massey said the department has a replacement cycle for cruisers, but not buying cruisers when needed amounts to “kicking the can down the road,” a phrase Roy also used. Massey said the fleet is aging. Klepach asked if it is possible to expand the bicycle police program, to which Massey said the bicycle unit is at its “potential” now.

School board member Julian Payne asked if anyone is prepared to go to Colby College to ask for help, as Colby contributed funds for a cruiser last year.

Mayor Nick Isgro said that last year, fire and police officials responded two times a day for a total of more than 600 trips to the two colleges and two hospitals.

Colby offered to buy the cruiser and the city approached the hospitals and Thomas but they declined to help, according to Isgro, who said the city is going to have to address the issue at some point. There is a disparity, he said between use of police vehicles and services rendered.

“If you don’t ask, you don’t get,” Payne said.

Isgro also said he recently heard ecomaine may start charging for accepting the city’s recycling. He asked if the city has heard anything from ecomaine about that.

“We haven’t heard anything definitive,” Roy said. “It’s a possibility …”

Payne asked if sharing a fire chief with Winslow is completely off the table. Roy said that while the Winslow Council has not voted on the matter, he was told Winslow does not want to share a chief.

“There’s some hope, but I think it’s very slim,” Roy said.

He said his focus in the budget changes presented Tuesday was to fulfill the need for a tax increase sufficient to cover the city’s operations while not continuing to decrease its reserves, or surplus.

From 2008 to 2017, that fund balance was drawn down from $10 million to $5.5 million, according to Roy.

The city’s policy is to maintain a surplus of 12 percent of the city’s latest budget, and the city is below that 12 percent, according to Rowden. Having a lower surplus will affect the city’s bond rating, she said.

Roy said the city departments with the largest budgets are police, public works and fire, in that order, and they represent 70 percent of the total city budget. Most of the city’s employees are in those three departments and their pay is determined through collective bargaining. The city has 109 full time employees.

Soule asked if funds for nonessential employee training and conferences could be put off a year to help reduce the proposed budget amount. Roy said he and Rowden could come to the next meeting with a list of funding amounts for training and conferences and what they think are essential and non-essential.

Resident Sandra Sullivan said she has lived in the city six years and her taxes have increased $2,000 during that time, which included the period in which properties were revalued.

“That’s not sustainable for me,” Sullivan said of the increase. “It may be for some people. It’s not for me and that’s why I come here and listen to this. Two mills might not mean anything to a lot of working people, but for a lot of people who are retired, it means a lot.”

Councilor Winifred Tate, D-Ward 6, said the council has been impressed by the hard and creative work done by department heads in the budget process, and the council has worked hard to minimize a budget increase.

After the meeting, Tate said she wanted to make a statement:

“The council has been working very hard to come up with a budget with a minimal increase; it’s unfortunate that the mayor hasn’t offered any concrete proposals.”

Asked Wednesday to comment on Tate’s statement, Isgro sent a reporter a statement he posted on Facebook that says “on Tuesday, a budget will be presented that calls for raising your property taxes by 13% (over 3 mils). Yes, this is the same exact 13% figure I warned about a few weeks ago — the same one that some in the media and well-connected on the city council implied I was lying to you about. Some said I made it up.”

Isgro’s lengthy post goes on to say councilors have spent much time over the past year ignoring residents and “ignoring my many, many budget suggestions.” The post says councilors instead have been trying to remove Isgro from office.

“To City Manager Mike Roy’s credit, he did offer several suggestions to reduce the tax hike from 13% to around 10% even though by the charter this is the council’s budget. It seems our efforts are pushing things in the right direction. However, the city council would not even commit to this small reduction to the proposed increase. They will work diligently to remove me but they won’t budge an inch to help you.”

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17