Lincoln-area schools to make fifth try at passing budget

Posted Jan. 09, 2013, at 8:24 p.m.

Rebecca Hanscom hopes that the fifth referendum on the proposed RSU 67 budget on Thursday is about the numbers, she said Wednesday.

The board’s new chairwoman asked residents to vote for the $12.13 million proposed budget during the referendum, which will be held in the district towns of Chester, Lincoln and Mattawamkeag.

“If you are comfortable with the budget’s bottom dollar, then vote for it and give us a chance to deal with the other issues,” Hanscom said. “The other issues are still very important to us, but we have to deal with this budget first. It is only costing us money to do these referendums.”

The referendums, which stretch back to the spring of 2012, “stop us from continuing [our other school board] work,” Hanscom added. “We are still committed to what we all believe needs to happen. We have heard the public and are still listening.”

Residents from the district voted last month to cut about $57,000 from the budget during a town meeting at Mattanawcook Academy. The cuts included about $16,000 from the administration’s salary and expense lines and another $41,000 from the district’s maintenance accounts, Hanscom said.

In the largest turnout of the four elections, voters rejected the budget by a combined vote of 1,886 to 997 in unofficial totals on Nov. 6. Lincoln and Chester voted against the budget. Mattawamkeag passed it, 181-180. Chester and Lincoln voters rejected reopening Carl Troutt School in Mattawamkeag, which that town’s voters supported.

Several residents who spoke at public meetings after the fifth referendum cited a lack of trust in the board and Superintendent Denise Hamlin.

Some teachers have complained that the board and Hamlin had a top-down management style that alienated teachers, stifled fair criticism and targeted critics within the system. Hamlin has disagreed, saying she was following board guidelines and is constrained by confidentiality requirements from discussing personnel issues.

The teachers and residents pointed to a settlement of a prohibitive practice claim and an arbiter’s decision in November overturning an Ella P. Burr School teacher’s suspension as examples of misfires on Hamlin’s part.

But the budget, Hamlin said Wednesday, is about $100,000 under 2009 spending levels. Planning on the budget for the next fiscal year, which starts July 1, has already started and is being made more difficult by the budget rejections.

Another rejection will leave the 2012-13 budget year more than half over, thereby giving school leaders less time to balance the budget when the fiscal year ends, Hamlin said.

Voting booths will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the town offices of Chester and Mattawamkeag and at Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln.

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