WATERVILLE — The City Council and Mayor Nick Isgro will meet face-to-face Tuesday night for the first time since Isgro avoided a recall, as the council takes a final vote on a proposed $41.9 million municipal and school budget Isgro has threatened to veto.

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

Isgro, who maintained his position in the election in a 1,563-1,472 vote — a difference of 91 votes — did not respond to a voice mail or email Monday seeking comment on the proposed budget. However, he said recently that he would veto any proposal that represents more than a 3 percent increase in the tax rate.

Isgro posted a message last week on Facebook after a reporter stopped at his home seeking comment that says he will no longer respond directly to reporters’ questions:

“I will definitely be continuing my new policy of responding to the media by referring them to public statements here on my Mayor page,” his post says. “And when they ask me a question, I will continue to respond here for all to see. There is no reason why they should hear anything from me before you do. The public can have the same level of access as these reporters.”

Isgro has been asked, but not responded to, questions about how he proposes to cut the budget. City Manager Michael Roy said Monday that he has not heard specifics from Isgro as to how he would cut the proposed tax rate increase from 8.3 to 3 percent.

“Anything on that order will require a reduction in people or programs unless he is going to propose using more of surplus,” Roy said.

Reducing the proposal to 3 percent would require cutting $900,000 and councilors have said doing that would seriously impact the city and mean gutting departments. For instance, such a cut might mean transforming the fire department into a volunteer department.

Using money from the city’s surplus account would take it well below the council’s policy of keeping it at 12 percent of the last approved budget — a policy councilors have been trying to maintain because lowering surplus can affect the city’s ability to borrow money.

“It could make our borrowing more expensive in the future,” Roy said. “It could have an effect on our bond rating.”

The council on June 5 voted 7-0 to approve the proposed $41.9 million municipal and school budget for 2018-19 and if the council finalizes that figure Tuesday, the tax rate would increase by $1.94 per $1,000 worth of property valuation.

If Isgro vetoes a budget approval Tuesday, he must submit the veto in writing, according to Roy. Isgro also could announce at the council meeting that he plans to veto the budget. The council could override such a veto at its next meeting.

The council recently reduced the tax increase from an earlier proposed $2.23 per $1,000 by increasing the amount of money the city had planned to take from a reserve funded by money received from Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. for ending its contract with the company. The original amount of $490,000 was increased to $800,000. The city then decreased the amount it takes from the city’s surplus fund from $200,000 to $100,000.

The proposed municipal budget is $18 million; the proposed school budget is $23.9 million. If the budget passes, the current tax rate of $23.33 per $1,000 worth of valuation would increase to $25.27. A taxpayer with a home worth $100,000 would pay $2,527 in taxes — an increase of $194.

On June 5, Councilor Sydney Mayhew, R-Ward 4, said councilors, Roy and Finance Director Heather Rowden worked diligently to minimize the increase in taxes. The city, he said, took in less revenue this year than last. Councilor John O’Donnell, D-Ward 5, said the proposed budget would represent less spending than what the city spent last year.

A recall initiated against O’Donnell failed last week.

The budget increase is reflected mainly in increases in insurances and salaries that are determined through collective bargaining. Councilors also maintain that the city is not getting the revenue sharing from the state that it is owed.

Roy said that with only $100,000 left in the PERC fund and the surplus fund already below 12 percent, the city faces a problem next year.

Mayhew noted that the city is in a unique position in that it is the fifth smallest municipality in terms of land area in the state with 13 square miles. In comparison, Augusta occupies 54 square miles and has a tax rate of between $19 and $20 per $1,000. Thirty percent of Waterville is in tax-exempt status, according to Mayhew.

Isgro claimed recently in a Facebook post that councilors were working behind the scenes to develop a tax increase of 13 percent. He also maintained that councilors had 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 Isgro’s Facebook statement was false — that the proposed budget still is considered the city manager’s budget until it is transferred into the hands of the council.

The recall effort against Isgro started after complaints about his social media posts.

Resident Rien Finch said at the June 5 council meeting that Isgro’s social media posts included one in which he responded to Pope Francis’ call for peace by posting: “Says a man constantly waging war on his own religion.” Finch said the mayor attacked immigrants, particularly refugees, when he posted: “If immigration policy over the past 10 years was about what benefits Americans first, tuberculosis wouldn’t now be a thing in some parts of the U.S.”

In other matters Tuesday, the council will consider accepting a $762,702 contract with Vortex Aquatic Structures International for replacement of the slide pool at Alfond Municipal Pool on North Street and authorize Roy to enter into a contract with Vortex fore the work to be done.

Funds for the pool and work will include $560,000 from a grant from the Harold Alfond Foundation and up to $274,000 from a city pool reserve account.

The council also will consider amending the marijuana moratorium ordinance and creating a committee to study marijuana sales in the city.

Councilors will consider voting to waive cloture to consider rezoning 110 College Ave., the site of the former Goudreau’s Retirement Inn, from residential and commercial to contract zoned commercial-A to allow for apartments to be developed there. Conditions of the contract are that apartments are the only permitted use and the owner shall install and maintain an 8-foot-high fence along the rear of the property lines and a 6-foot-high fence along the easterly property line of 5 Myrtle St.

The property is owned by the Booker family, doing business as BFP LLC.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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