GREENVILLE, Maine — The $3,311,285 Greenville school budget was approved Thursday during the annual town meeting, but not before residents peppered Superintendent Beth Lorigan with questions and two attempts were made to reduce it.
Resident Janet Chasse moved to strip funds for the future operation of the Nickerson Elementary School from the budget, but her amendments failed.
Over the years the school committee has contemplated closing the elementary school and consolidating the students into the Oakes building, and it appeared that move was headed to a November vote. Lorigan said Thursday, however, that the committee has abandoned that idea.
Committee member Richard Gould said Thursday that it may be the school committee that has the ultimate say if and when to close the school. He is researching that possibility and the procedures that must be followed according to state law. “If I find out that we can do this by school board only, that’s the way it will [be done] from my point of view.”
School Committee member Noel Wohlforth said the committee wants the building closed, but it would be difficult to make the move this summer.
Resident Loren Ritchie, who is retired, said he is holding out hope that the elementary school will survive. “Educationally, that school is home; this school [the Oakes building] is never going to be home to those kids,” he said.
Chasse had moved to reduce the budget by $57,000, the operational amount for the Nickerson school, but her first amendment failed 39-15, as did the second one by show of hands. Chasse said the proposed school closing has been discussed for years.
“I think it is just time to get everybody on board and make the move,” she said. “Why are we hanging on to this? I think we’re doing it … because we’re placating a few people, and I’m tired of wasting the money over there.”
The committee’s plan to convert the Oakes building from steam to wood heat without knowing what the budget impact would be on the tax rate or what the debt service would be on the proposed project took some heat.
Residents voted last year to borrow $2 million for heating, ventilation and air conditioning improvements in the Oakes building. The school committee has focused its efforts on the installation of a biomass facility at a cost not to exceed $2,526,750. A federal $750,000 energy grant would help offset the cost. Lorigan said the town could borrow the remainder at an interest rate of 0.75 percent.
Although Lorigan could not answer questions about the school budget’s impact on the mill rate and the debt service amount, the superintendent said she believed the debt service could be offset by oil savings. “I truly don’t believe that we’re not going to be needing to come to the town to cover our debt service,” she said.
To help pave the way for the conversion, voters will act on amendments to last year’s vote during a referendum on June 21. Residents will be asked to accept the federal grant, allow the construction of an accessory building to house the boiler and for fuel storage, and to include the gymnasium in the heating improvement project. Municipal elections also will be held that day.