WATERVILLE — The City Council on Tuesday will consider taking the first of two votes to approve a proposed $41.9 million municipal and school budget that represents a 9.5 percent increase over the $39.9 million budget passed last year.

The meeting will be at 7 p.m. in the council chambers on the third floor of The Center at 93 Main St. downtown.

If the budget is approved as is, the tax rate of $23.33 per $1,000 worth of valuation would increase by $2.23, to $25.56 per $1,000, according to the city’s finance director, Heather Rowden.

Rowden said Friday that the proposed municipal budget is $18 million and the proposed school budget, $23.9 million.

If councilors decide to vote on the proposal Tuesday, they would consider taking a second, final vote June 19.

Prior to last 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.

But City Manager Michael Roy asked that schools reduce their request for new local taxes by $200,000, so the Waterville Board of Education voted 6-0 Tuesday to tweak the proposed school budget to reduce it by about $200,000. Roy and Rowden proposed a list of changes to lower the municipal budget by $200,000 as well.

The object, according to Roy and Rowden, was to reduce the increase in the proposed budget from three mills to two, or $3 per $1,000 to $2 per $1,000 worth of property valuation.

If the council approves the proposed $41.9 million budget, a property owner with a home worth $100,000 would be asked to pay $2,556 in taxes, whereas that same property owner would have paid $2,333 last year, for a difference of $223.

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.

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, schools do not have a lot of leftover money in the budget, but school Superintendent Eric 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 MaineCare 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 cleaner at George J. Mitchell School; $18,000 for cameras and monitors, $2,700 for an 8-gallon carpet cleaner 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 cleaner for Albert S. Hall School; and $3,130 for a 12-gallon carpet cleaner 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 stressed 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 last week’s 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 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.

Roy said his focus in presenting budget changes 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.

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.

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.

Mayor Nick Isgro said recently in a Facebook post that councilors were working behind the scenes to develop a budget with a 13 percent property tax increase and have been using an effort to recall him from office as a distraction from work on the city budget.

However, Roy and Council Chairman Steve Soule, D-Ward 1, said that statement is false. The proposed budget still is considered the city manager’s budget until it is transferred into the hands of the council, which will occur Tuesday. Isgro posted on Facebook this week that “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

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