Calais suspends school budget referendum for now

Posted Sept. 16, 2013, at 4:46 p.m.

CALAIS, Maine — The City Council has rescinded its earlier decision to set a referendum on the proposed school budget.

Instead, the council will wait to see if the school committee will make additional spending cuts at a special meeting on Thursday evening.

The City Council trimmed $50,000 from capital spending plans in the current budget when it met on Sept. 10 in order to free up more funds for schools. Then it voted to approve a proposed school budget of $8,790,000 and set a referendum for Sept. 24.

The school committee held a budget workshop Sept. 11, and it may act on spending cuts recommended by new Superintendent Keith Laser at its special session later this week.

Since the school committee may impose more cuts, the City Council agreed at its meeting Sept. 12 to rescind its earlier decision to set a referendum Sept. 24.

Both the City Council and school committee have been wrestling with school spending in recent weeks.

Voters already have rejected the city’s proposed school budget in two referendums. The last proposed budget adopted by the school committee was for $8.8 million, but the City Council trimmed that to $8.3 million. The proposed school budget that was defeated most recently, on Aug. 27, included $1.4 million in local funds, about $251,000 more compared with the previous school year.

Before any additional money was approved for schools, Laser told the City Council at its special session Sept. 10 that the school system’s budget proposal was still short about $333,000.

The City Council and the school committee originally were about $420,000 apart, but the council agreed to release $40,000 in capital funds originally earmarked for textbooks, and the school committee has made some budget reductions.

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