Medway, East Millinocket residents due to vote on school budgets

Posted Aug. 05, 2013, at 7 p.m.

EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine — Voters will get a second chance this week to approve a School Department budget, this time a $4.20 million proposal that seeks $6,830 less than last year’s, officials said Monday.

The East Millinocket School Committee cut $231,422 from the $4.4 million budget that voters rejected 283-133 in a validation referendum on June 27. A town meeting is set for 6 p.m. Tuesday and a validation vote on Thursday, Superintendent Quenten Clark said.

“Everything that we took out wasn’t good. It was all stuff that we thought we needed,” Clark said Monday.

“It is hard to see where this budget wouldn’t pass. I know there was a lot of discussion about decreasing the impact on taxes,” Clark added. “I think there are some significant losses here that may need to be made up down the road but at least for this year the school will work with the changes we have made.”

Board of Selectmen Chairman Clint Linscott, whose board pushed school board members to make cuts, said he didn’t support the new budget.

“I don’t think they have done enough to cut the budget,” Linscott said Monday. “I am really worried about the numbers. The number of students going to school is getting smaller and I hope we can find a way to adjust.”

The town’s population has dropped from 2,557 in the 1970 census to 1,723 in 2010. East Millinocket’s projected student population in September is 209 students, the lowest in town history.

Population predictions compiled by state officials and available at maine.gov show East Millinocket’s population falling to 1,617 in two years, to 1,525 in 2020 and to 1,430 by 2025. Millinocket is expected to lose 500 people and drop to 4,002 in 2015 and to 3,531 by 2020.

“For the past two years we have had a $3.5 million budget,” Linscott said. “Now we are asking citizens for nearly” $1 million more.

Clark had earlier said that a proposed $2 million donation to fix the Schenck High School roof depended on voters approving the proposed budget. Monday, he said he was unsure that the family of Gloria MacKenzie, a Florida resident and town native who in June bought a winning $590.5 million Powerball ticket, the largest single jackpot in American lottery history, required budget approval as a condition for the donation.

“I am not sure whether that was an off-the-cuff remark or if it was serious. I think it remains to be seen,” Clark said. “I am fairly confident that the MacKenzies will do the right thing by the school. I just don’t know what they have in mind. I haven’t heard anything about that since” a family member made the offer last month.

The MacKenzie family has refused to comment since she won the lottery.

As part of saving $141,713, board members opted to cut a full-time secretary’s position in Clark’s office and cut to half time four other full-time positions — Schenck High’s guidance department director, Spanish and special education teachers’ slots, and a library education tech’s post, according to a list officials compiled.

The rest of the cuts include a roof renovation bond payment of $36,665, and several furniture and supply accounts totaling $64,171. Schools also received an additional $25,538 in subsidies from the state, according to the list.

Items restored to the budget include the show choir that Schenck High and Stearns High School of Millinocket students participate in and junior varsity baseball, basketball and softball coaching positions, Clark said.

Medway residents were due to consider their portion of the school budget on Monday night. Medway students attend town schools.

The town meeting will be held at Schenck High School and the vote will run from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday at the town office, Linscott said.

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