LINCOLN, Maine – Voters will vote on Tuesday on a proposed $12.2 million RSU 67 school budget and whether to accept a $237,000 federal grant that would allow the town airport some financial independence, officials said Sunday.
The referendum will be held at Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Residents are invited to vote. Votes on the school budget will also occur in Chester and Mattawamkeag.
The RSU 67 Board of Directors and residents voted to accept a $12,267,722 million budget for the 2012-13 school year, which began July 1. The budget proposal represents a $32,277 reduction from the 2011-12 budget, board Chairwoman Jackie Thurlow said.
Thurlow has encouraged residents of RSU 67, which serves Chester, Lincoln and Mattawamkeag, to support the budget. The budget, Thurlow said, “is sufficient to maintain the high-quality educational programs and services for children in our communities.”
The new budget also carries a slight decrease in local taxes paid by the three communities, Thurlow said, but her statement on the schools’ website, rsu67.org, does not specify the amount.
Prior to the $32,000 cut, Superintendent Denise Hamlin said, Hamlin’s proposed $12.3 million budget carried effective tax increases of $23,216 in Chester, $77,743 in Lincoln and $61,567 in Mattawamkeag.
Hamlin attributed the increases to the revaluations of the towns.
Among the cuts proposed are about $140,000 worth of reductions of teaching positions at Ella P. Burr School that were, Hamlin said, once positions shared with the closed Carl Troutt School. The positions were cut to part-time to conform to the hours of instruction actually provided, she said. Several teachers have challenged that assertion.
With the second referendum issue, the Federal Aviation Administration grant, the town would receive the $237,000 and pay $11,850, to acquire a small terminal building, a nearby hangar and about 5 acres at the north end of the runway, including a campground, near the Penobscot River.
The Maine Department of Transportation and FAA, which awarded the grant to the town on Wednesday, will reimburse Lincoln for 95 percent of the purchase price unless voters reject the proposal, Airport Manager David Lloyd said.
“If the people turn it down, we won’t accept it,” Lloyd said Sunday, calling the grant award and proposed expansion “pretty significant for the airport.”
For decades the airport has relied on federal and local taxpayer support. If voters approve accepting the grant on Tuesday, the town could operate the facility. Or town officials could lease the facilities to a private operator who could rent hangar space to pilots, run the concession stand and lounge, build a dock in the river to draw float plane traffic to the airport, and run the campground.
“This will give us some revenue-generating facilities at the airport so that we won’t have to worry about tax revenue so much going forward,” Lloyd said.
An FAA official has said that Lincoln’s airport is probably behind most other airports of its size in Maine in that it lacks a fixed-based operator and a terminal-type building. It does, however, stand unique among most Maine airports in its access to the river, seaplane base and capacity for industrial growth.
Town leaders have been using grants for more than a decade to improve the airport and build on the aviation service businesses, such as PK Floats, already built around it. Accepting the grant would accelerate that process, Lloyd said.