RSU 67 voters reject budget, Troutt school buy for 4th time

An unidentified boy whose mother is in a voting booth leans out and looks around at Mattanawcook Academy in Lincoln on Election Day, Nov. 6, 2012.
An unidentified boy whose mother is in a voting booth leans out and looks around at Mattanawcook Academy in Lincoln on Election Day, Nov. 6, 2012. Buy Photo
Posted Nov. 07, 2012, at 10:12 a.m.
Last modified Nov. 07, 2012, at 6:55 p.m.
Signs like this one seen recently on Fleming Street in Lincoln, are indications of some residents' discontent with a plan to revitalize Dr. Carl Troutt School in Mattawamkeag and with the leadership of RSU 67 Superintendent Denise Hamlin.
Signs like this one seen recently on Fleming Street in Lincoln, are indications of some residents' discontent with a plan to revitalize Dr. Carl Troutt School in Mattawamkeag and with the leadership of RSU 67 Superintendent Denise Hamlin. Buy Photo

Voters of RSU 67 soundly rejected the school system’s proposed budget for a fourth time on Tuesday, despite Mattawamkeag’s approval of the budget and of a proposal to buy Carl Troutt School.

Unofficial vote totals had Lincoln voters rejecting the proposed $12.19 million 2012-13 budget, 1,478 to 848. They opted against buying the Mattawamkeag school, 1,743 to 590.

Mattawamkeag voters approved the school purchase, 217-149, and the budget, 181-180. Chester voters rejected the budget, 182-100, and the school purchase, 191-93.

Three residents were elected to the RSU 67 school board. Katie Clay was the top board vote recipient with 1,328. Incumbent David Edwards was re-elected with 1,235 votes, while Dolly Phillips made it onto the board with 1,084 votes, just edging town Treasurer Gilberte Mayo, who received 1,052.

Mary Plourde received 654 votes and Jeffrey Schick received 598 in losing efforts.

The fourth budget vote had been, like the previous three, affected by voters’ questions of the credibility of Superintendent Denise Hamlin and the RSU 67 board of directors.

Outgoing RSU 67 Board of Directors Chairwoman Jackie Thurlow has said she blamed the leadership of a small group of residents for the budget’s rejection three times.

“I think now it is because of this group. People are coming to me and they feel that all this controversy is getting out of hand,” said Thurlow, who retired from the school board effective Nov. 6.

The group — Phyllis Aiken, Mary Mallett Bies, Tonya McLaughlin and Phillips — said before the vote that rejecting the proposed $12.19 million budget would be a vote of no-confidence in Hamlin. The group placed about a dozen “Vote No” signs around the school district. Bies estimated that her group speaks for more than 100 people who she said are afraid to speak out for fear of retaliation.

Several “Vote Yes” signs were posted around Lincoln last week – several appearing alone on school property — in response.

When contacted Wednesday, Hamlin issued a brief statement:

“We will schedule the public budget meeting and go to referendum by Dec. 21, 2012. The associated costs will increase the school budget for the taxpayers,” she said.

Attempts to contact Phillips and board vice chairman Regginal Adams were not immediately successful on Wednesday. Board member David Shannon of Lincoln declined to comment on the votes or their meaning.

“I think it would not be appropriate for someone other than an officer to speak for the board,” said Shannon, the CEO of Penobscot Valley Hospital of Lincoln, via an instant message.

He referred comment to John Trask, who he said is the board’s treasurer. Trask has an unlisted telephone number. Several other board members, including Edwards, did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

Aiken and Bies said the budget and Troutt votes send a clear signal that Hamlin should resign or be fired, calling them votes of no confidence in her leadership.

“It is real important than we get across that four people did not make this happen,” Bies said Wednesday. “Last night, everyone spoke for themselves.”

Hamlin on Nov. 1 offered a list of more than 18 points that she said were significant accomplishments in her three years as superintendent.

The list includes the tightening of spending and financial controls that allowed the school board to absorb $1 million in loss of stimulus funds while reducing spending and local taxpayer payments to the school system to pre-2009 levels. More than 20 “unnecessary positions” were cut and staff evaluations were instituted annually to match staffing with school enrollment changes.

“To say the least, many of these restrictions were or are unpopular within a culture used to freedom from accountability, which the board directed me to change,” Hamlin said in her statement.

Hamlin’s initiatives also vastly improved school buildings and technology, she said. Now all K-12 students have computers; the high and middle school gym floors and the grade and high school parking lots were resurfaced. New roofs are on two schools, new bleachers were installed at the high school; the school system’s three schools have energy-efficient doors and windows; and teacher salaries and benefits have increased by $200,000.

“As superintendent, I am proud of the academic and operational

improvements to our school system and disappointed that a group of

people with a personal agenda towards me would hold the budget

hostage. It only injures programs and services for children, and increases cost to the taxpayer,” Hamlin said.

The next board meeting, at which the board will presumably elect a new chairman, is set for Nov. 14, a school official said.

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