VEAZIE, Maine — The Town Council voted 3 to 2 on Monday to send the education budget back to the school committee to make $200,000 in cuts, even after residents voiced opposition, Deputy Clerk Julie Strout said Friday.
“All their comments [fell] on deaf ears,” she said.
Chairwoman Tammy Perry, David King and Robert Rice voted in favor of making the cuts, deemed “far too severe” by the school board, and councilors Karen Walker and Chris Bagley voted against the move.
More than 50 residents were in attendance, and most of those who took to the podium spoke against the school cuts, Strout said.
“The Town Council has established a budget that is $201,000 less” than the draft budget approved by the school committee, Superintendent Rick Lyons said Thursday. “As a result of that, the school committee is going to meet Monday night” to discuss possible options.
Town councilors last month directed school officials to flat fund the local share of the budget, but the school board, last week, unanimously reaffirmed the initial $4,248,289 budget they put forward. The school board felt that the reduced budget called for by the council was far too severe and really eroded the integrity of the school, Lyons said.
While the proposed school budget is $7,215 lower than this year’s budget, it calls for about $201,000 more in local funding compared with this year, largely because of Veazie’s loss of $213,106 in state funding, Lyons said.
The school has requested $2,915,342 from residents, and the Town Council wants flat funding at $2,714,264.
The town’s original plan was to reduce what residents contribute to the $4.2 million school budget by dropping the local allocation from $2.7 million to $2.2 million, and offsetting the school’s revenue loss by using $500,000 from the $866,860 in “settlement” funds received this year from the separation from RSU 26. That idea was abandoned last month in favor of flat local funding.
Chairwoman Tammy Perry said Friday that she and the others who voted to reduce the school’s budget are looking out for residents.
“We are concerned about the school,” Perry said. “Our per-pupil cost is $2,000 above the state average. We have to look at the whole picture.”
She said she and the other councilors did not take the vote lightly.
Town Manager Mark Leonard left on vacation after the meeting.
Lyons said the school committee had already cut $170,000 from the first draft of the budget by eliminating a teaching position, two full-time education technicians, reducing the curriculum development budget and cutting the out-of-district placement contingency account.
How the district will cut another $200,000 is a question he cannot yet answer.
“That is a pretty significant reduction,” Lyons said. “I will advance recommendations on Monday to modify the budget with the least impact on the education environment.”
The special Veazie school committee meeting is 7 p.m. Monday in the school’s library.
BDN reporter Dawn Gagnon contributed to this story.