WATERVILLE — The Waterville City Council took the first of two votes needed to approve a proposed $44.2 million municipal and school budget Tuesday.

The proposed budget for 2020-21 reflects an increase from the current $42.8 million spending plan, but the city intends to use more surplus than it used last year, and revenues have increased, particularly on the school side of the budget. The proposal would not increase the current property tax rate.

The city plans to use $500,000 from its surplus account. Because the state homestead exemption is based on $25,000 worth of property valuation, or $5,000 more than last year, many residents will see reductions in their property taxes, according to City Manager Michael Roy. The city does not yet know how much it will receive in state revenue sharing.

The council faced a proposed $44.1 million budget going into Tuesday night’s meeting, but the finance committee met Monday and recommended some changes. Mayor Nick Isgro, Council Chairman Erik Thomas, D-Ward 7, and Councilor Mike Morris, D-Ward 1, who are members of the committee, recommended that the city’s property tax rate remain at $25.76 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

The committee also recommended that a position budgeted to work for both the Parks and Recreation and Public Works departments should not begin until January. They also suggested the Police Department hire another full-time patrol officer, with that person also planned to start in January. The police position, for a half year, would cost $44,000, including benefits.

Those changes to the proposed budget created a shortfall of about $100,000, with $60,000 of that reflected in an overlay budget to cover tax abatements that occur throughout the year. The finance committee recommended the $100,000 shortfall be split between the city and schools.

Thomas made a motion Tuesday night to amend the budget to reflect the recommendations of the finance committee.

But Pam Trinward, a member of the Waterville Board of Education, said no one from the schools was included in the finance committee’s meeting and none were invited.

“I’m disappointed with the City Council that you would do this to us this late, and I think it’s inappropriate,” Trinward said.

Board member Maryanne Bernier agreed with Trinward.

Thomas said the council was not telling the schools to cut its school budget, but the schools have a surplus account just as the city does, and it could use surplus to make up the $50,000 share of the shortfall. Councilor Rick Foss, R-Ward 5, said the council was not insulting what the school board is doing, but asking it to find $50,000, just as the council was doing.

“I think it’s a workable combination,” he said.

Councilors voted 5-2 to approve Thomas’ amendment, with councilors Flavia Oliveira, D-Ward 2, and Meg Smith, D-Ward 3, dissenting. The council then voted 7-0 to approve the budget, as amended.

The Waterville Board of Education took a first vote April 27 to approve a $25.7 million proposed school budget, and will take a final vote after the City Council finalizes the combined municipal budget and school budget.

The school proposal represents an $843,647 increase to the 2019-20 budget, but requires $30,444 less in local taxes than this year needed.

The council in July 2019 approved a $42.7 million municipal and school budget for 2019-20.

The council expects to take a final vote on the municipal and school budget Aug. 4

In other matters Tuesday, the council took the first of two votes to repair the walking surface of Two Cent Plaza at Head of Falls, off Front Street. The vote was 6-1 with Councilor Claude Francke, D-Ward 6, the lone dissenter.

Francke said he couldn’t see spending money on a walkway when the council just asked the schools to cut $50,000, and the council had to do the same.

Funding for the walkway repair would include $26,158 from a waterfront bond account and funds from the capital improvement reserve account. A bid has not yet been issued for the work, estimated to cost between $40,000 and $50,000. The original plaza was completed in 2011 and damage to the pave-stoned walkway was probably caused by winter use of salt and the sidewalk plow, according to information given to councilors. The metal railing near the concrete steps was also vandalized.

The council also took a final, 6-1 vote to amend the zoning ordinance to add a solar farm district to the ordinance, with Foss the lone dissenter. Councilors took a final, 5-2 vote to rezone part of Webb Road, from Rural Residential to Solar Farm District to allow for Roland Rossignol and NextGrid to construct a solar farm there. Foss and Councilor Sydney Mayhew, R-Ward 4, voted against the request.

The council didn’t have enough votes to pass a request to rezone part of County Road from Rural Residential to Solar Farm District to allow Kevin Violette of Holmes Farm Associates to build a solar farm there. After a lengthy presentation by Violette and testimony by several people, including area residents, the council voted 4-3 to approve the request. However, a zoning change requires that five councilors vote in favor.

The council voted 7-0 to refer to the Planning Board for public hearing and recommendation a request to create a zoning district for mobile home parks.

Additionally, councilors voted:

• 5-2 to amend the traffic ordinance to prohibit heavy trucks from parking at night on streets in the Residential-A and Residential-B zones. Foss and Francke voted against the request.

• 7-0 to accept a $40,290 award from the state Department of Health and Human Services to buy supplies for fire department staff for COVID-19-related activities. The award includes $29,290 to staff fire personnel from July 1 to Oct. 31, $10,000 for City Hall supplies and $1,000 in publication costs to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

• 7-0 to ratify a two-year contract with Firefighters Local 1608.

• 7-0 to issue marijuana retail licenses to Northwoods Farmacy, 107 College Ave., and Sweet Dirt, 475 Kennedy Memorial Drive.

• 7-0 to issue food licenses to Kentucky Fried Chicken, 444 Kennedy Memorial Drive, and Rusty Lantern Market, 288 West River Road.

• 7-0 to amend a previous lease with Vacationland Skydiving at Robert LaFleur Municipal Airport. The business was unable to begin its lease, approved last spring, due to the coronavirus pandemic, and wants to move it to next year.

• 4-3 to approve a resolution urging businesses to encourage customers and employees to wear face coverings during the COVID-19 pandemic. Morris, Mayhew and Foss voted against the resolution.

• 7-0 to appoint Oliveira to the Kennebec Regional Diversity Initiative, a new organization seeking to engage the community in developing timely and achievable goals to prevent discrimination.

• 7-0 to take a first of two votes needed to amend the public safety ordinance to allow the fire department to charge fees for inspections and other services.

The meeting, held at the Mid-Maine Technical Center, lasted more than 2 1/2 hours.

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