WATERVILLE — The City Council on Tuesday took the first of two needed votes to approve a proposed $62 million municipal, school and county budget for 2025 that represents an estimated 1.5% increase over this year’s spending plan.

The 6-1 vote, with Councilor Ken Gagnon, D-Ward 5, the lone dissenter, followed a lengthy debate and proposed amendments that were either postponed or rejected.

City Manager Bryan Kaenrath said that if the council approves the proposed budget at its June 18 meeting, the tax rate of $19.90 per $1,000 worth of assessed property value would increase between 30 cents and 40 cents per thousand.

So, for instance, the owner of a property valued at $100,000 currently pays about $1,990 annually in taxes. A 30-cent increase to the rate would boost that tax bill by $30, to $2,020, and a 40-cent increase by $40, to $2,030.

The current proposal breaks down to a $28.4 million municipal budget, $32.3 million for schools and $1.35 million for Kennebec County.

Each of the three budgets would see an increase over this year: 0.47% for municipal, 4.55% for schools and 26.9% more for the county.


Kaenrath noted that he has been working with the assessor’s department on what the final tax increase is expected to be if the proposal passes, and he estimated that the overall budget would increase between 1.5% and 2%, depending on several factors.

Officials said cost increases from last year to this year are coming from fuel costs, vehicle parts, maintenance, personnel and other city needs, with personnel representing the largest expense, and increases built into labor contracts.

The council held a public hearing on the proposed budget May 7, at which time officials estimated the tax rate could increase by as much as 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value.

On Tuesday night, Gagnon reiterated a previous stance that the city should try to produce a budget with no tax increase. He proposed an amendment to reduce the budget by eliminating items on a list of options for councilors to consider cutting. He recommended some of those items be kept in the budget, including bulky waste pickup and three part-time positions for Waterville Public Library.

The items that would be eliminated under his amendment included a public works plow driver intended to fill a gap and reduce stress on overworked employees; $35,000 for marketing festivals and other city events; $3,000 worth of equipment for the city clerk’s office; $10,000 for emergency vehicle maintenance; $30,000 for public works and parks; $20,000 for subsidies for low-income children to take part in parks and recreation activities; and $3,000 for membership to the Mayor’s Council.

But Councilor Rien Finch, D-Ward 6, said he wanted a responsible budget and such cuts are not responsible.


“These are cuts for the sake of cuts and I cannot support this,” Finch said.

Councilor Brandon Gilley, D-Ward 1, agreed, saying he especially opposed cutting parks and recreation subsidies for children of low-income families. He also said anyone can say the emergency vehicle maintenance money could be reduced until a vehicle breaks down on the side of the road on the way to a call.

“It’s tough but I agree, this isn’t responsible for the city of Waterville and that’s why we’re here,” Gilley said. “Budget season is a tough one but we’ve got to do it the right way.”

Council Chairwoman Rebecca Green, D-Ward 4, concurred with Finch and Gilley, noting a 1.5% increase would represent a $30 increase on a property worth $100,000. She said she would not vote for Gagnon’s amendment. And Councilor Thomas Klepach, D-Ward 3, questioned a statement by Gagnon that the city should have a tax rate that will help keep middle class people here and cause people to want to move here.

Klepach said he wants to live in a community with people who value the environment and have access to recreational activities for low-income children, among other things.

Cutting the items Gagnon recommended felt regressive, Klepach said, and would send the wrong message. “I want people who have the wherewithal to be able to spend $30 on $100,000 for what seems like a very reasonable menu of services that they’re getting from the municipality,” Klepach said.


Resident David Johnson, who also is a Planning Board member, said he was satisfied with a 1.5% or 2% increase. He opposed the proposed cuts, saying that would devalue his tax dollars.

Gagnon was the only councilor to vote for his proposed amendment.

Green earlier had proposed an amendment to take $80,000 out of the administrative budget for the assistant city manager’s position and create another position that would accomplish the same goals of the position at a lower cost. Assistant City Manager Bill Post recently announced he plans to leave the job June 20. After discussion, the council voted 4-3 to postponed the discussion, which could be introduced again at the June 18 meeting.

Kaenrath said three options for the position might include keeping it as is, splitting it into two positions or turning it into a lower managerial position that accomplishes some duties but is not a supervisory role.

Resident Nancy Sanford said she thinks keeping the assistant manager’s position is imperative. “I just think that if we get rid of the assistant city manager position, I guess I wonder if we’d ever get it back,” Sanford said.

Gagnon moved to postpone the matter, which passed, 4-3. Gilley, Finch and Tom McCormick, an independent councilor representing Ward 7, voted against tabling the amendment.

Councilors also voted 7-0 to take a first of two needed votes to issue a bond for just under $5 million for capital projects. About $3.7 million of that would be used for streets and sidewalks, according to Finch.

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