May 21, 2018
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Calais council adopts school budget, sets referendum

By Tim Cox, BDN Staff

CALAIS, Maine — As expected, the City Council voted 4-3 to adopt its proposed $8.3 million schools budget and set a referendum on the spending plan.

The council voted Thursday evening after no debate or discussion at a special meeting that lasted less than five minutes.

Mayor Marianne Moore was joined by Councilors Chris Bernardini, Alan Dwelley and Tom Parks in voting in the majority. Councilors Art Mingo, Billy Howard and Anne Nixon voted against the proposed budget.

Calais voters will have the opportunity to weigh in on the schools budget in a referendum set for Aug. 27. Voting will be 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the city municipal building.

“Spending is the problem,” Mingo said after the meeting, explaining his vote. “It’s our budget overall.”

“There’s not enough money to go around. The pie’s only so large,” added Mingo.

It was the second special session the City Council has held in two weeks in order to try to adopt a budget for its school system, which consists of a junior-senior high school and an elementary school.

The School Committee recommended a budget of $8.8 million. The City Council trimmed that earlier to $8.3 million, but voters rejected it 238-55 in a referendum July 9.

At a special session last week, the City Council considered a proposed schools budget that was about $50,000 higher. However, a vote to adopt it ended in a 3-3 tie; Bernardini was absent.

The City Council voted in July to increase the mill rate by $2 per $1,000 property tax valuation in order to generate more revenue for its junior-senior high school and elementary school. The increase will generate about $300,000 in new revenue.

The council’s recommended school budget is $340,000 more than what the city appropriated for schools in the previous year. That figure includes capital improvement budget items of $50,000 for maintenance and $40,000 for textbooks.

Calais previously was a member of an Alternative Organizational Structure, or AOS, for school services, but it withdrew from the regional entity effective at the end of the 2012-13 school year.

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