WATERVILLE — The City Council has approved a proposed $46.5 million municipal and school budget for 2021-22, while adding $222,000 worth of new positions, allocating $100,000 for browntail moth mitigation and cutting the tax rate by 26 cents per $1,000 worth of valuation.

With the tax rate lowered from $25.76 to $25.50 per $1,000 of property value, a person who owns a home valued at $100,000 would pay $26 less in taxes under the new budget.

The decrease represents a symbolic gesture on the part of councilors, who voted 7-0 Tuesday to approve the budget and said they recognize residents need a break and to see a good-faith effort at lowering taxes.

“It’s not much — I understand that. But it’s in a good direction,” Councilor Rick Foss, R-Ward 5, who proposed the decrease, said during Tuesday night’s council meeting.

Mayor Jay Coelho thanked Foss and said if the tax rate is lowered this year, it could be lowered again next year. He said the tax decrease looks symbolic but $26 for someone on a fixed income is significant.

“It’s grandma’s prescriptions, and I’m good with that,” Coelho said.

Even Council Chairman Erik Thomas, D-Ward 7, who previously has hedged on suggestions to decrease the tax rate this year because a revaluation may take place in the near future, went along with Foss’ request.

“I do think it’s important, especially with new spending we’ve added to the budget, to do something to show taxpayers we’re looking out for them as well,” Thomas said.

Contacted afterward for the final total of the new municipal and school budget, city Finance Director Aaron Berls said Thursday that with the amendments made to the budget Tuesday night, the budget order had not yet been finalized.

Before taking a second, final vote Tuesday on the proposed municipal and school budget, councilors decided to make several amendments to add new positions, including $88,483 for a new assistant city manager, $17,697 of which would be funded through tax increment financing revenue and $70, 787 through taxes; $56,705 for a new finance clerk, to be entirely funded through taxes; and $76,901 for a fire inspector, $61,521 of which would be funded with fees and $15,380 with taxes.

Also, the council allocated $100,000 for browntail moth mitigation, a total that includes $25,000 for tick mitigation.

Councilor Flavia Oliveira, D-Ward 2, recommended the funding be approved for the assistant city manager position, saying she saw it as an investment by the city.

City Manager Steve Daly said he believed it was a “very, very important position for the city to have.”

The assistant city manager would back Daly up and keep tabs on day-to-day operations of the city, stand in for him in his absence and free Daly up to focus on economic development, he said.

“I see this person as a grant writer and a prospector for grants,” Daly said, adding that grant writing and coordinating grant writing in the city would take up about 25% of the assistant city manager’s time.

Thomas said he had advocated for the position for a while and the position would lend continuity to the city manager’s office.

“I’m glad to hear so much support for this position out there, and I’m certainly in favor,” he said.

Councilors voted 6-1 on July 6 to approve the first reading of the proposed municipal and school budget, after adding $65,000 to the municipal budget to increase the city planner’s position from half time to full time and $93,000 to add another code enforcement officer.

While the total municipal and school budget reflects more than a $2 million increase from the 2020-21 budget, the council was still able to lower the tax rate because of revenues the city expects to receive, including funds from tax increment financing districts.

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