WATERVILLE — The City Council voted Tuesday night to approve a $51.6 million municipal and school budget for 2022-23, cutting $130,000 at the last minute and increasing property taxes by 35 cents per $1,000 worth of assessed valuation, instead of the planned 50 cents.

The final 6-1 vote did not come easily. It followed a vote to approve a mutual aid agreement with Delta Ambulance, an item that was not on the agenda.

Councilors debated at length whether to postpone a budget vote until next week to provide time to discuss and digest last-minute cuts to the budget and to discuss a $1.72 million increase to the Fire Department budget.

Councilor Claude Francke, D-Ward 6, was the lone dissenter on the budget vote, saying he still thought more discussion was needed. He objected to the proposal to spend nearly $2 million for the Fire Department to hire staff for emergency medical services without holding a public hearing. He also objected to increasing property taxes.

The budget discussion began with council Chairperson Rebecca Green, D-Ward 4, asking councilors to vote to waive cloture to consider voting on an emergency order to extend funding city and school operations beyond Friday, the end of the fiscal year, to allow more time to discuss the budget.

City Clerk Patti Dubois said the council must first vote to declare an emergency to protect the health and safety of the residents. Green said councilors did not know about the Fire Department expansion plan or final school budget numbers until June 16, leaving little time for discussion.


“I just feel we haven’t really had enough time to make sure we have the right priorities,” Green said.

Voting for the emergency amendments would have been necessary had the council not passed the budget Tuesday.

City Manager Steve Daly said he earlier Tuesday had cut $180,000 from the municipal budget, which would reduce the proposed tax rate from $26 to $25.75 per $1,000.

Daly’s recommended cuts included $50,000 from the browntail moth mitigation fund, $28,000 from a salary fund, $27,000 from a fund that would be used for hiring emergency medical service personnel, $25,000 from the city’s marketing budget, $15,000 from the general operating contingency fund and $10,000 from the city manager’s contingency fund for unforeseen needs.

Daly said the cut to funding for emergency medical service personnel would push hiring dates into the future.

Much discussion ensued on cutting $50,000 fr0m the browntail moth fund, with Green and Councilor Flavia DeBrito, D-Ward 2, continuing to object to a rushed process where councilors had little time to digest the cuts and what they would mean to the city.


In the end, the council decided to keep the $50,000 for browntail moth mitigation in the budget and cut only $130,000 from the spending plan.

Councilors Rick Foss, R-Ward 5, and Tom McCormick, an independent who represents Ward 7, agreed with Mayor Jay Coelho that the budget should be approved Tuesday.

Green emphasized many services and staff members are being added to the Fire Department. She said she does not see that as a long-term solution to emergency medical services in Waterville. Green said she wants to see a regional approach to the issue that would include the Fire Department, hospitals, Delta Ambulance, area communities and possibly local colleges.

“I think this is the way to go,” she said.

The city’s current municipal and school budget is $46.5 million. Increases in the new municipal budget include pay increases for all city departments.

Increases in the school budget were driven by pay raises for teachers and educational technicians and hikes in medical insurance premiums.


Assistant City Manager Bill Post wrote Wednesday in an email that with the changes made to the budget, the spending plan for 2022-23 totals $51.6 million, including a municipal budget of $23.18 million and a tax increase.

“This translates to an estimated 35 cent increase from $25.50 to $25.85, which of course is an estimate until valuations are complete and the tax commitment is final,” Post said.

The Fire Department plans to hire eight firefighters who would also be emergency medical technicians or paramedics, and two administrative employees, including a deputy chief for emergency medical services and a training officer for firefighting and EMS.

The city received about $1 million more in revenue sharing from the state and about $1 million in increased aid for schools. Also, $2 million was taken out of the city’s reserve fund to help pay for budget increases.

Before the budget vote Tuesday, councilors asked many questions about the mutual aid agreement between the Fire Department and Delta Ambulance, with Tim Beals, Delta’s executive director, answering many of them.

Beginning on Friday, Delta is pulling out of an arrangement with the Fire Department where Delta staffs ambulances out of the fire station.


Fire Chief Shawn Esler said that when the Fire Department needs Delta to answer a call, Delta will do so if it has an ambulance available. If Delta needs the Fire Department to answer a call, fire officials will respond.

“This is an agreement that says we will help one another,” Esler said.

Beals said he believes the same level of service will be provided to the community with the mutual aid agreement.

Councilor Thomas Klepach, D-Ward 3, asked Beals to estimate the percentage of time a Delta ambulance might not be able to respond immediately to a call for backup. Beals said that would be difficult to determine because one cannot predict 911 calls or when Delta might be transporting patients from one facility to another.

Delta serves several surrounding communities that do not have the resources Waterville has to form an ambulance service, Beals said.

He said communities across the country face staffing shortages, and Delta has been increasing the size of its staff, which takes time.

Delta trains it staff members in house to become emergency medical technicians, and pays for some to attend college to get certified to become paramedics.

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