Waterville council approves proposed $53.1 million budget

0

WATERVILLE – City Council took its first vote on Tuesday to approve a proposed municipal and school budget of $53.1 million for 2022-23, which represents an increase of $6.6 million and includes funds to make from the fire department a full ambulance service.

The vote was 6 to 1 with Councilor Claude Francke, D-Ward 6, the only dissenter.

Francke said Delta Ambulance has provided high quality service to the city for 50 years and special attention should be paid to the ramifications of such a drastic change in emergency medical services.

Francke offered to change the fire department’s proposed $4.2 million budget to $3.48 million, which Fire Chief Shawn Esler proposed for his department in March of this year. Francke’s proposed amendment died for lack of a second.

Meanwhile, council chairwoman Rebecca Green, D-Ward 4, moved an amendment asking the city to spend $143,673 in American Rescue Plan Act funds to hire an administrative assistant and compliance inspector. to code for just one year for the Code Enforcement Office, which Green says has been stretched beyond capacity. His amendment is approved.

The proposed $53.1 million budget includes $24.7 million for municipal spending and $28.4 million for schools. The council could only take one vote on the budget on Tuesday and is expected to take a second final vote in two weeks.

The current budget is $46.5 million.

According to City Manager Steve Daly, the municipal budget increases include wage increases for all city departments to bring them up to par with similar municipal salaries in the region. Increases in the school budget are caused by salary increases for teachers and education technicians, as well as increases in medical insurance.

The city is proposing to spend $1.72 million on a plan to hire eight firefighters who would also be emergency medical technicians or paramedics, and two administrative employees, including a deputy chief of services emergency medical and a training officer for firefighting and EMS.

Daly said the city’s projected revenue from having its own ambulance service would be $1.25 million, so the net cost to the city would be just under $500,000.

If council approves the budget in its second vote, the property tax, or mileage rate, would increase from $25.50 to $26 per $1,000 of property assessment, so a homeowner valued at $100,000 would pay $2,600 in taxes, an increase of $50.

The city is able to offset some of the total budget increase because it received about $1 million more in state revenue sharing and about $1 million in increased school aid, according to Daly. He recommends as part of the proposal that $2 million be drawn from the city’s reserve fund to help pay for the increases.

The fire department’s expansion plan was first released publicly at a council meeting on Thursday evening – four days before the council takes its first vote on the municipal and school budget. Francke objected at that meeting to voting on such a significant change to the fire department without first holding a public hearing so residents could weigh in. Francke said the plan was presented to the board during an executive session on June 14, with Esler and the medical director for the fire department in attendance.

Tim Beals, executive director of Delta Ambulance, said Monday that Delta would still serve as a mutual aid or rescue service, under an agreement with Waterville being worked out. He said it’s essentially the same one Delta had with the city before the contract the city and Delta started two years ago, where Delta supported the fire department with two ambulances and paramedics. .

In 2019, Mayor Jay Coelho, then a councilman, and Councilman Michael Morris, D-Ward 1, pleaded with Esler to buy used ambulances so the fire department could get a license to transport patients to hospitals. Delta and Waterville firefighters responded to emergencies, such as automobile accidents, but only Delta, which employed paramedics, could transport patients.

Esler said that at the time, Delta sometimes arrived late for accidents or other calls, and he wanted to make sure the fire department could help transport patients in cases where Delta couldn’t. be there faster. He said he does not envision the department becoming a full transportation service.

The fire department eventually obtained a transport license and purchased two used ambulances in 2019, and the city in 2020 formed a partnership with Delta for the transport service. Esler recently called, however, for a study to be done on EMS services in the city, while acknowledging that the outcome could lead to the city ending its relationship with Delta and fending for ambulance services on its own. . The department asked Delta officials to fund half of the study, but Delta refused, having recently commissioned its own study from the same company.

Delta officials decided in May to walk away from its deal on July 1, with Beals saying the city had hired four of its employees, making it harder to work with a partner that did that.

Beals said Monday that Delta would be able to take over seven Delta employees and the two ambulances it had dedicated to the city fire department. Delta has hired employees and implemented a program that pays to train those who become paramedics.

Esler and Daly said Tuesday that the fire department expansion would maintain the current level of fire and emergency medical services in the city, as well as the city’s level of mutual aid with other communities.


Use the form below to reset your password. After you submit your account email, we’ll send you an email with a reset code.

” Previous

Share.

Comments are closed.