WATERVILLE — The Waterville City Council voted 6-0 on Tuesday to approve a nearly $44 million combined municipal and school budget for 2020-21 that does not increase the city’s property tax rate.

The council also voted 5-1 to accept the final report of the city’s charter commission, which includes proposed changes to the city charter. Councilor Rick Foss, R-Ward 5, was the lone dissenter. The proposed charter changes will be on the ballot in November.

Councilor Sydney Mayhew, R-Ward 4, said the city’s 2020-21 municipal and school budget is the best one he has seen in his 5 1/2 years on the council.

“I do believe that this is an excellent budget for the city of Waterville and I’m very happy to support it,” he said.

The council took a first vote July 21 to approve the combined municipal and school budget, which reflects an increase from the current $42.8 million budget, but the city recently cited plans to use more surplus than it used last year. Revenues have also increased, particularly on the school side of the budget.

The approved budget for 2020-21 does not increase the current property tax rate of $25.76 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. Under that rate, a property valued at $100,000 would be assessed $2,576 in taxes.

The city had planned to use $500,000 from its surplus account in the new budget, but City Manager Michael Roy announced Tuesday night that the city received “very, very good news today” on estimated state revenue sharing.

The latest projection from the state treasurer’s office is that the city will receive $2.3 million in revenue sharing funds, he said. The city estimated in February that it would receive $2.6 million, but cut $800,000 from that estimate when the coronavirus pandemic struck in March, decreasing it to $1.8 million, according to Roy.

“We’ve got a long way to go to make sure that all of that $2.3 million comes in,” he said.

He said if the city receives that amount, it will not have to touch the surplus.

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 Roy.

The proposed municipal budget is $18.36 million and the proposed school budget is $25.2 million.

Meanwhile, the Charter Commission proposes a city charter change that would require the city fill council vacancies by special election rather than by council appointment. Another proposed change is to require mayoral candidates to have lived in the city at least a year instead of three months. Also, the commission proposes requiring a two-thirds vote of the City Council to approve a budget, rather than the majority vote of four councilors now required.

The commission for the last seven months reviewed the charter, which governs how the city operates, and last month voted 8-2 to send the revisions to the council for review, with members Julian Payne and Cathy Weeks dissenting. Their minority report, as well as the report of the majority of commissioners, are available at waterville-me.gov.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Foss objected to a proposed charter change that would require candidates for mayor and other positions to be at least 18, though Charter Commission Secretary Rien Finch said that the current charter language does not specify an age limit.

“I just feel like 18 is too young,” Foss said. “Not that you’re not educated, but 18 seems too young.”

Foss also objected to the commission’s initial decision to require a 7-3 vote of commission members to forward a proposed charter change to the council. Commission member Samantha Burdick explained that toward the end of the commission’s deliberations, there was some debate about what was going to appear in the final proposal to the council. Members then looked at lowering the 7-3 threshold for votes because there was a possibility that the final package to the council would have failed, she said.

“We were trying to come up with consensus among the entire group,” Burdick said. “It wasn’t to be rude or take something away from anybody.”

Mayhew said commission members should be applauded for their work.

“I do think the charter commission’s work is very commendable because this comes around every seven years,” he said. “This is not an easy task.”

Councilor Claude Francke, D-Ward 6, also commended commissioners. Francke said there is one thing that bothers him about the proposal, the recommendation to require a two-thirds vote of the council to approve a budget. He said, however, that he planned to vote to accept the commission’s proposed changes.

Most of the proposed changes involved fixing language referring to state statute and clarifying issues, according to Finch. For example, three separate places in the charter address how the mayor, councilors and members of the Waterville Board of Education are inducted into office, and the commission proposes putting them all in one place.

Commissioners spent considerable time discussing a proposed change that would require the city finance director to provide the council monthly updates on the city budget, according to Finch. The commissioners’ work included talking with councilors about the requirement, he said.

Another change the commission proposes relates to those wanting to run for the Kennebec Water District board of trustees. Anyone seeking to run would have to be nominated at a party caucus, according to the proposed language. Currently, this is not required.

When voters have an opportunity to vote on the proposed charter changes in November, it will be to accept all changes in a single vote, rather than item by item.

In other matters Tuesday, the council voted 5-1 to approve an amendment to the city’s traffic ordinance that prohibits trucks that are more than 18,000 pounds in weight from parking at night on streets in the Residential-A and B zones. Francke was the lone dissenter.

The council also took a final, 6-0  vote to amend the public safety ordinance and fee schedule. The change allows the Fire Department to charge fees, in some cases, for inspections, project reviews and services related to fire prevention and anticipation of emergency response to specific hazards.

Councilors took a final, 5-1 vote to repair Two Cent Plaza at the RiverWalk. They also voted 5-1 to allow restaurants to extend outdoor dining to 11:30 p.m., but noted that the serving of food and drink still must stop at 11 p.m. The idea, they said, is to allow patrons time to consume their food and beverages. As part of the vote, restaurants also are allowed to extend outdoor dining to Nov. 1 or when snow plowing operations start, whichever comes first. Francke voted against both requests.

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