VEAZIE, Maine — Voters chose two councillors and a school committee member and narrowly passed a school budget validation referendum question during local elections Tuesday.
In the four-way battle for two Town Council seats, political newcomer Tammy Olson was the top vote getter, with 144 ballots cast in her name. The other seat went to incumbent Joseph Freidman, who nabbed 142 votes.
The other two candidates, incumbent Councilor Rod Hathaway and Scott Kigas, each received 71 votes.
Since no one stepped forward as a candidate for the school committee vacancy, that position was filled through a write-in election. Travis Noyes was the winner.
The budget validation vote for Riverside RSU, which also included Orono and Glenburn, was close, with 123 residents voting in favor and 105 opposed.
Immediately after the polls closed at 8 p.m., about 35 residents gathered at Veazie Community School for the annual town meeting, moderated by Rep. James Parker, R-Veazie.
Voters whizzed through the 12-article town meeting warrant within about 20 minutes.
They paused, however, to question local officials about an unexpected hike in the town’s share of the Riverside RSU education budget.
Town Manager Bill Reed and Rep. Parker briefed voters on efforts to change the school unit’s cost-sharing formula, which they said includes debt service. Because Veazie recently built a new school and has relatively few students, including debt service results in what Veazie officials say is inherently flawed and results in an artificially high per-pupils cost.
Veazie officials blame the formula for an unexpected $160,000-plus hike in the town’s share of the RSU budget. Word of the increase did not arrive until town councilors already had planned out a budget that would hold property taxes at the current rate of $18.80 per thousand.
Reed and Parker said they have been working with state Deputy Education Commissior Jim Rier and that he is researching the matter. They said Rier told them that the formula could be problematic. The formula will be the focus of an informational meeting tentatively set for June 21 in Orono.
Reed said it isn’t yet clear if the school cost increase will result in a tax rate increase. Town officials may be able to use reserves to soften the blow but have not yet made any decisions to that end. If no action is taken, the tax rate could climb to as high as $19.50 per thousand in valuation, Reed said.