WATERVILLE — A petition to repeal the 2018-2019 city budget failed to gather enough signatures Tuesday, putting an end to a contentious budget cycle and bringing relief to several city officials.

The petition effort had gathered 268 signatures by 5 p.m. Tuesday, the deadline for it to be turned in at City Hall, according to City Clerk Patti Dubois. It needed 857 signatures to force the City Council to re-open the budget or send it to a referendum.

Resident Eric Chamberlain, who started the petition to repeal the budget, said in an email he plans to re-focus his efforts on trying to change the city charter to allow residents to vote on the city budget, given that “the last several budget cycles our voices and concerns were not heard.”

“We are now going to have to live with the tax increase,” Chamberlain said. “People are going to struggle more, but at this point, we have to move our focus from the tax hike to charter reform. During the petition gathering process, it became very clear the charter needs to be changed. Residents are frustrated with the council and their failure to listen to those whom they have been elected to serve.”

The end of the repeal effort puts a close to a budget cycle also colored by a coinciding effort to recall the mayor and debate over what ended up being an 8 percent tax increase.

Mayor Nick Isgro vetoed the total $41.9 million combined city and school budget in June, but the veto was overridden by councilors, with the exception of Sydney Mayhew, R-Ward 4.

“I think residents have had enough of recalls and vetoes and overrides,” City Manager Mike Roy said. “It’s time for us to move forward to bigger and better things, and I sincerely believe citizens of Waterville want the same thing.”

During the budget process, councilors repeatedly said the budget was “bare bones” and nothing more could be cut, and they stressed the city is facing a revenue shortage, in part because of the state’s failure to fund revenue sharing fully.

Revenue sharing is the process by which state government is legally required to distribute back to municipalities a portion of taxes collected.

Several councilors reiterated the same points Tuesday and said that while they do not like to see taxes increase, they were relieved the repeal effort had failed.

“I am very pleased to see people recognized the promises made to reduce the budget with arbitrary percentages and dollar figures were words without a concrete plan,” said council Chairman Steve Soule, D-Ward 1, in an email. “As stated unanimously by the city council, we presented a bare bones budget. It is unfortunate that taxes will increase, but education and services offered will continue to make Waterville a great place to raise a family.”

“No one likes to see a tax increase, but I’m happy there won’t be a repeal, because that would just throw things into chaos,” said Councilor John O’Donnell, D-Ward 5. “It was a difficult budget year and I think everyone realizes that.”

O’Donnell also said the city should be thinking about how it will face future budgets with uncertainty around revenue sharing and without reliance on one-time funds, such as a reimbursement from the Penobscot Energy Recovery Co., or PERC, that helped fund this year’s budget.

Councilor Winifred Tate, D-Ward 6, urged residents to support representatives in Augusta who will restore revenue sharing and fully fund schools.

“The council worked together to produce a bare bones budget,” Tate said in an email. “I am glad to see that the residents of Waterville support our work. We have much hard work ahead of us, as we work together to find solutions to the ongoing budget crisis facing our city.”

Mayhew, who supported the mayor’s veto and had suggested that both the city and school look to cut an additional $100,000 each from their budgets, said Tuesday he stands by that suggestion though he was not surprised the repeal effort failed.

“I was skeptical of them being successful, as one petitioner had let me know he felt the drive and effort were sort of disorganized,” Mayhew said. “However, I do believe a majority of residents believe taxes are too high in Waterville.”

Like O’Donnell, Mayhew said the city should start looking now at how it will consider next year’s budget and come up with long-term solutions to prevent tax increases. He also said he would be willing to listen to Chamberlain or other residents who might want to amend the city charter or change the budget process.

“I would have to see what that would entail,” Mayhew said, talking about Chamberlain’s proposal that residents vote on the budget rather than councilors. “I know there are some smaller, outlying towns that do that, but I don’t know if that’s relative to what Waterville needs to do at this time. I am open-minded and willing to review and listen.”

“It’s affirming to know the majority of Waterville’s citizens recognize this was a challenging budget that the council worked hard on, and difficult decisions had to be made,” said Councilor Jackie Dupont, D-Ward 7, in an email. “Across the board, the budget reflects the hard work and compromise of everyone involved.”

Isgro and Councilor Nathaniel White, D-Ward 2, did not respond immediately Tuesday night to requests for comment.

The mayor has not said whether he supported the repeal, but at the time the petition was started he said a budget repeal can be “very disruptive” and criticized councilors for not working with residents who were behind it.

Since he first took office in 2015, Isgro has vetoed the budget during three of the four budget cycles.

Aside from this year, a petition to repeal the budget also was filed in 2016.

That petition, started by resident Jessica Laliberte, gathered 812 signatures before the council moved to re-open the budget ahead of the deadline for signatures to be gathered, resulting in about $400,000 in additional cuts.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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