WATERVILLE — The City Council voted 6-1 Tuesday night to override Mayor Nick Isgro’s veto of a $41.9 million combined city and school budget.

Councilor Sydney Mayhew, who suggested the council and school district re-open their budgets and each eliminate $100,000, was the lone councilor who voted to uphold the veto.

“I do disagree with some of the mayor’s proposals, but I’m simply asking we look at the budget again,” said Mayhew, R-Ward 4. “It’s just a sign we want to go back and see if there is anything. Maybe we can find something. I’m not going to devalue the work done by the council, but I do want to do justice to both sides of the aisle in my ward if there is a small cut that is harmless.”

Tension also ran high Tuesday night between Isgro and Councilor Lauren Lessing, D-Ward 3. Lessing challenged the mayor after he said revenue sharing money that should be coming into the city is going to “tens of millions in more welfare for noncitizens,” among other things.

Revenue sharing is the distribution of state tax funds to local governments to help offset the property tax burden.

“I really don’t want to see immigrants targeted as the reason for our local budget woes,” Lessing said.


Isgro’s wife, Amanda Isgro, later got up to speak on the budget, saying she thought councilors did not want to uphold the veto because of the recent effort to recall the mayor over his social media posts and the fact he was the one suggesting the veto.

“Hopefully going forward we will have a strategic plan like every business does. But our council, you need to be involved in that,” Amanda Isgro said. “It’s not just the mayor’s job to facilitate that. And these past two months you’ve been so warped and so consumed, at least four of the councilors, in the recall. It’s no wonder you haven’t found more cuts in the budget because you were so consumed with that. And then you sit here and make cheap shots.”

She also criticized Lessing for distributing a flyer that said the mayor wanted to close the municipal pool and urging people to have their voices heard on it. Nick Isgro has said he doesn’t want to close the pool, but in his budget veto he suggested redirecting or eliminating repairs to the slide pool, a move some city officials said could jeopardize the pool’s future and probably would mean the loss of a $560,000 grant.

“You are an intelligent woman,” Amanda Isgro said to Lessing. “I do not doubt that. But when I see you doing things like that, that only hurt after we’ve had months of this. It’s so disappointing.”

Lessing, who is moving to Iowa for a job at the University of Iowa later this month, said, “I don’t think standing up for the rights of immigrants is a cheap shot.”

“Move to Iowa,” Nick Isgro said.


The budget includes an 8.3 percent tax increase, something several residents spoke about Tuesday night, with some asking councilors to maintain support for local schools, while others said the city needs to do a better job of planning. The current tax rate is $23.33 per $1,000 of assessed property value, and the new budget will increase the rate to $25.27 per $1,000 of assessed value.

Resident Tom McNeil, a former school counselor in Waterville schools, said he took a 10 percent pay cut when he came to work in the district and later got a 10 percent raise when he went to work elsewhere.

“I understand it’s tough times, but we have to keep our teachers competitive,” McNeil said. “It’s about keeping these kids in school and getting them to graduate. It’s essential to our future — the future of our city and our state — that we invest in these kids.”

Resident Catherine Weeks described a family in her neighborhood that moved because they cannot afford more tax increases, and others who do not want to move to the city because of the taxes.

“You see the ‘for sale’ signs on every street in Waterville,” Weeks said. “The reason is the taxes. I really hope the council will take this very logical suggestion that Councilor Mayhew is asking for. And let’s bring in (an outside consultant), because we’re not making the mark with who we have on the budget.”

Tuesday’s meeting followed a June 21 veto of the city budget handed down by Isgro.


In the veto, Isgro called for a cut in pay raises to School Department employees, eliminating funding for all new school positions, re-directing or eliminating the use of $274,000 in city money for repairs to a slide pool at the municipal pool complex, reducing the paving budget by $30,000, and reducing the Fire Department’s budget by $20,000.

City officials previously had treated the mayor’s recommendations as impractical, saying union contracts dictating salaries for the school district already have been negotiated and cannot be reneged on and that several of the school district positions are federally mandated because of special education needs or student enrollment numbers.

On Tuesday, Isgro said his goal with the veto was to start a conversation about the budget for people who are concerned about their taxes. He also suggested public meetings be held to help the city prioritize and that in future years, there should be an earlier start to the budget process.

“Whether it’s the pools, or the roads, or the River Walk, we have to have a hard discussion about where our priorities are,” he said.

There was also considerable debate Tuesday night over the funding for the pool repairs, which are scheduled to be funded with a $560,000 grant from the Harold Alfond Foundation in conjunction with up to $274,000 from a designated city pool account.

Several people Tuesday spoke in support of the pool, while others questioned the spending on the slide.


Thomas Klepach, who visited the pool Tuesday with his children, Roa and Isla, brought them to the council meeting to speak about the pool as an asset to the community.

“The pool is a part of the community,” Klepach said. “I understand it’s not making money, but I don’t see that as the purpose of the community pool.”

Isgro has hinted at the possibility the budget could be repealed, a process that could lead to a citywide vote on whether the council’s decision to approve the budget should be overturned.

In order for that to happen, residents would need to gather 857 signatures over the next 21 days on a petition calling for the council’s decision to be overturned.

The last time residents sought to repeal the budget was in 2016, after the council voted 5-2 to override Isgro’s veto of a $38 million budget. Councilors voted to re-open the budget before the petition was done circulating and ultimately approved a $37.6 million budget.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368


Twitter: @rachel_ohm

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.