WATERVILLE — The City Council on Tuesday took a final vote to approve a proposed $42.7 million municipal and school budget for 2019-20, as well as a first vote to approve borrowing $5.6 million for capital projects.

The new budget increases the tax rate of $25.27 per $1,000 worth of valuation by 49 cents, to $25.76 per $1,000. A person with a home valued at $100,000, for instance, will pay $2,576 in taxes with the new tax rate.

The 5-2 vote, with councilors Erik Thomas, D-Ward 7, and Phil Bofia, R-Ward 2, the only dissenters, followed a lengthy discussion and proposed budget amendments from the two councilors, both of which failed.

Bofia, on one hand, wanted councilors to ask the city and schools to cut $158,880 each, in addition to the $56,500 each cut last week to bring the proposal to $42.7 million. He argued that residents cannot continue to face tax increases, particularly people on fixed incomes, and the city can’t keep spending money and expecting residents to pay for it. He recommended increasing the tax rate by only 5 cents per $1,000.

“If I’m going to save money, I have to stop spending the money I have,” Bofia said.

Thomas, on the other hand, proposed a budget amendment that would increase the tax rate by 60 cents per $1,000 worth of valuation, as a previous budget proposal had requested, and not using as much surplus money this year to fund the budget. Thomas argued that lowering the city’s surplus beneath the recommended 12% is dangerous and jeopardizes the city’s ability to borrow money. He also said the city must fund roads, public safety and other necessities, and that going Bofia’s route would devastate the city.

To make a point, Thomas said he could make his bank account look great by ignoring bad brakes on his vehicle, dismissing holes in his clothes and eating only Ramen noodles, but that would not be wise.

“I could do all those things and keep that money in my bank account, but frankly, that’s no way to run a city,” Thomas said.

The city’s surplus is about $4.9 million, which is a little lower than the recommended 12% of the operating budget, according to City Manager Michael Roy. The city is using $460,000 of surplus money this year for the budget — $300,000 from the city and $160,000 from the schools.

Council Chairman Sydney Mayhew, R-Ward 4, defended the proposed $42.7 million budget, calling it a “compromise budget” and thanking councilors for their diligent work on it.

He said budgeting is a difficult task and the most important one the council tackles.

“I will reiterate that I am in support of the budget as is, as amended the first time, and I do believe that it is the best option on the table,” Mayhew said.

The municipal and school budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year was $41 million. Councilors last week took a first vote to approve the proposed $42.7 million municipal and school budget for 2019-2020 after voting 4-3 to cut $113,000 from the initially proposed $42.8 million budget.

The city and schools shared the cut equally, with each trimming $56,500.

Superintendent Eric Haley said Monday that the Waterville Board of Education met at 7:30 a.m. Monday and voted 6-0 to cut $62,700 from the proposed school budget by eliminating a proposed wellness teacher position that would have served both Waterville Senior High School and its alternative school.

To make the $56,500 cut as requested by the council, the high school, Waterville Junior High, Albert S. Hall School and George J. Mitchell School would instead each be given $1,550 toward helping to fund contracted services with Kennebec Behavioral Health for children with social-emotional needs, as part of the vote.

Haley said he recommended  the board cut the proposed wellness teacher and add the funds for behavioral health.

The school budget for 2019-20 is now $24.9 million, an increase from the $23.9 million budget approved for 2018-19, according to Haley. The major increase is reflected mostly in contracted salary increases. The board must take one more vote to finalize the school budget and is expected to do so July 22, according to Haley. He said the board takes its final budget vote after the council finalizes the municipal and school budget.

The municipal budget councilors approved Tuesday is $17.8 million.

Gov. Janet Mills signed an $8 billion budget package June 17 that includes $111 million for kindergarten-through-grade 12 education and $75 million in revenue sharing. Haley said Monday that Waterville schools will receive $15.3 million in state revenue, which represents an increase from the $14.7 million schools received for 2018-19.

The council last week voted 7-0 to put $70,000 from the sale of a property on Airport Road toward the city’s 2019-2020 revenue, which allows for the tax rate increase of only 49 cents.

The council Tuesday took the first of two votes needed to approve borrowing $5.6 million for capital projects, including:
• $2 million for public works equipment and road construction,
• $336,000 for parks and recreation,
• $1.56 million to replace the fire department’s tower truck and buy a chief command vehicle,
• $100,000 for the Police Department,
• $600,000 for streetlights,
• $100,000 for a firearms training range for the police department, and
• $810,000 for the Waterville Public Library.

Proposed library projects include replacing the floor, for $250,000; window replacement, $155,000; furniture replacement, $115,000; north ramp project, $60,000; historic wood restoration, $10,000; copper roof turret, $100,000; collections security gate, $20,000; and Colby Room exterior door, $10,000.

The council went into Tuesday’s meeting looking at borrowing $5.5 million for capital projects, but voted, at Thomas’ recommendation, to add $150,000 to that figure to take care of immediate needs of the fire station, including a leaking roof and equipment.

Richard Ranaghan, president of Northeast Municipal Advisors LLC, the city’s bond advisor for 20 years, said now is a good time to borrow.

Comments are disabled on some stories about sensitive topics.

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.