Rockland-area voters add money to budget after lengthy debate

Posted May 27, 2014, at 8:50 p.m.
Last modified May 27, 2014, at 9:24 p.m.

ROCKLAND, Maine — The 60 people who turned out Tuesday night to discuss how much money to spend for schools over the next year were as divided as the board has been over the past few years.

Voters ended up adding $72,000 to the budget that had been recommended by the board. This budget goes for a yes or no vote at the polls in each community on June 10.

Despite the increases, the overall $27,175,000 budget is still about $54,000 less than the 2013-14 spending package. But even though spending is down, RSU 13 property owners will need to pay an additional 4 percent because the district has $1.2 million less in other revenues.

On Tuesday night, residents voted 32-28 to add $42,000 for regular instruction with supporters urging the board to use the money to retain a technology educator at the middle schools. The public also voted 33-28 to add $30,000 for an educational position at Oceanside West.

The residents were reminded repeatedly, however, that the voters can add the money, but the decision on whether to spend it for the intended purpose is solely in the hands of the board.

Last year, residents voted to add money to keep an arts teacher and social studies teacher at the high school and a sixth-grade teacher at the St. George School, but the board declined to keep those positions.

Residents pointed that out and questioned whether the board would follow their wishes this year. Board member Carol Bachofner asked for a straw poll of board members, but that was opposed by Board Chairman Steve Roberts. Meeting moderator Michael Mayo ruled the request out of order.

Resident Angela Johnson of South Thomaston said voters have a faith issue with their board after last year, when the board did not follow through on the wishes of residents’ vote for positions.

With several residents arriving late to the 6 p.m. meeting, board member Esther “Tess” Kilgour challenged the right of those people to vote and made a motion that latecomers not be allowed to vote. She said that with technologies, the time and place of the meeting were well known.

Bethany Berry of Rockland said the board should be upholding the Constitution and not deny any citizen the right to vote.

Others also voiced opposition to the prohibition.

“Why would anyone who is not a registered voter come here and vote?” Noreen Mullaney of Thomaston asked.

Kilgour’s proposal was overwhelmingly rejected.

The budget cuts one elementary foreign language teacher, one library media position at the kindergarten through seventh grades, a South School social worker, an industrial technology educational technician and an administrative assistant at Oceanside High School West. The district also is reorganizing the school administration with one fewer position resulting from the changes.

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