MEDWAY, Maine — Town leaders agreed Tuesday to hold a second town meeting so voters can address a $196,979 cut to the education budget that would force the school board to break contracts and state law, officials said. No date has been set.
The Board of Selectmen informally agreed to the school board request during a 25-minute selectmen’s meeting at the town office. About 40 people attended.
At issue was a 22-17 vote by residents at the June 11 annual town meeting that approved reducing the school administrative account from $197,979 to $1,000. The cut would eliminate the salaries of Superintendent of Schools Quenten Clark and his administrative staff effective July 1, the start of the 2014-15 fiscal year, officials said.
School officials issued pre-termination notices to the Medway Middle School staff June 12 in response to the cut before a Portland attorney told the board later that day the cut would violate state laws requiring superintendents at school systems.
It would also violate Medway schools’ contracts to share administrative services with East Millinocket and Woodville. Under state law, superintendents have a host of obligations, including attending school board meetings, Clark has said.
School board members and residents who voted to make the cut expressed satisfaction Tuesday at the chance to re-address the budget article in question.
“It’s OK,” school board member George McLaughlin said. “It’s what we want.”
The residents said Tuesday the $196,979 cut was their reaction against the schools having a high reserve account. They said they want to see some of that money used to lower the 26.5 mill rate likely to be set this fall in response to the passage of the $3.03 million school and $1.25 million town government budgets.
A $196,979 transfer from the school fund balance into the school budget would effectively reduce the mill rate to 23.5 for 2014-15, town administrative assistant Kathy Lee said.
Selectmen told the school board the 22-17 vote signaled voter dissatisfaction and a lack of communication with residents. Some residents said they objected to the hiring of a new business manager who would have been paid from the $197,979 account. Those residents preferred the sharing of the services of East Millinocket school business manager.
“There are a lot of people who feel that they don’t understand what you are doing,” Selectman Bruce Jones said. “While other people around us are making [budget] cuts, you guys are growing [your fund balance].”
McLaughlin responded that board meetings are open to the public and that the board limits public comments from attendees to maintain efficiency.
“I hear what you guys are saying,” school board member Bruce Cox said.