WATERVILLE — The City Council has declared an emergency and authorized spending to keep the city operating after Wednesday, the end of the city’s fiscal year.

Because councilors didn’t know as of Tuesday night how much revenue sharing the city will get from the state, they were waiting to vote on a proposed $46.6 million municipal and school budget until they have that information. The proposed budget for 2021-22 represents a $2.2 million increase over the current budget, but with revenues and tax increment financing funds the tax rate is not expected to change. The current rate is $25.76 per $1,000 worth of property valuation.

The emergency funding measure, approved 7-0 Tuesday by councilors for city and schools, will be in effect until a new budget is approved. The funding will be at the same levels the 2020-2021 budget allows. The state Legislature passed a state budget Wednesday, but the city may not know immediately the amount it will receive in revenue sharing.

Meanwhile, the council is scheduled to hold a virtual meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday to consider taking a first vote on the proposed budget and discuss possible amendments. Depending on how things go, councilors could take a second, final vote at its meeting July 20. The public may view Tuesday’s meeting via a link on the city’s website, www.waterville-me.gov or take part by clicking another link to register for that.

Council Chairman Erik Thomas, D-Ward 7, said that while it looks like the proposed budget is up a lot, much of the increase does not represent new spending. He cited several expenses such as the city’s 53rd payroll week which is costing $187,000; payroll increased $300,000 over last year due to negotiated raises; county taxes increased $35,000; the debt service is up $215,000 because a bond payment is due; there is $35,000 in the proposed budget for renting a space to hold council meetings; and last year, the municipal pool was closed and because it is open this year, the city has a $140,000 expense it did not have last year.

Waterville city councilor Erik Thomas. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel file

Also, the city’s health and welfare budget is up $145,000 from last year due to needed spending during the coronavirus pandemic, and the city will get reimbursed 70% of that amount, according to Thomas.

He noted the only new costs in the budget, which will be paid for with tax increment financing money, are $100,000 for a position at Central Maine Growth Council which will be dedicated solely for Waterville, and money for nonprofits, including $15,000 for Kennebec Valley Community Action Program’s transportation system, $10,000 for the Alfond Youth & Community Center’s meals for children program and $25,000 for Waterville Creates.

Thomas said Wednesday in a phone interview that he is proud of the way the budget came together.

“I think it is addressing a lot of long-term concerns of residents when it comes to infrastructure,” Thomas said, “and we’re doing it in a way that allows us to keep the tax rate flat. We worked really hard on this budget to keep that mill rate flat, and we’re going to keep working hard moving forward.”

Meanwhile, City Manager Steve Daly on Tuesday presented an overview of the proposed budget, which shows a $313,000 surplus. In response to a question from Councilor Thomas Klepach, D-Ward 3, Daly said that number is expected to change according to the amount of revenue sharing the city gets from the state.

Mayor Jay Coelho said the proposed budget includes no COVID-19 CARES Act funding which is expected to come from the federal government. Daly said there are restrictions on how that money may be spent — it must be used for purposes related to lost revenues and items such as premium payments to staff for working during the pandemic. Thomas said he believes the city is to receive $1.6 million.

The council several weeks ago had proposed putting seven new positions in the budget, but Thomas said the only new positions in the proposed budget now are three firefighter-emergency medical technicians.

“Those actually make us money,” he said of the EMT positions.

Other new positions, including an assistant city manager, another code enforcement officer, a finance clerk and fire inspector, could be added to the budget Tuesday if councilors propose to do that, according to Thomas.

The proposed budget is expected to help fund city operating costs and capital needs that have gone unaddressed for many years. Money from tax increment financing districts is available to fund a variety of projects, including those related to economic development and infrastructure.

Councilor Claude Francke, D-Ward 6, said he wanted to caution councilors to consider carefully whether to make amendments to add more positions to the proposed budget, as it could set the city up in a position of having to “rob Peter to pay Paul.”

“Any new position we add is going to be a position that is going to be in budget after budget after budget,” he said.

Francke said the way Daly laid out the proposed budget makes it easy to understand and the City/School Finance Committee did an excellent job of working through the budget. He commended Daly, the committee and others who worked on the proposal.

“It looks like things are actually working the way that things are supposed to work,” he said.

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