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Primary Election Features School Budget Referendum

your vote counts

By Kendra Williams

Voters who go to the polls on June 11 to decide on parties’ candidates for next November’s election will also see a referendum on the school budget for 2024-25.

The City Council recently approved a combined city and school budget that represents a 6.8% increase over the current budget, raising the mill rate – what property owners pay for each $1,000 of assessed value – from $15.14 to $16.17. It is possible that the rate could decrease with increased valuation. The school budget is approximately 43% of the mill rate. Maine law requires districts to put the school portion of their budgets to a public vote each year.

Superintendent Matt Nelson said the School Department’s expenses have increased, mainly because of contracts, health insurance and transportation. At the same time, the city’s property valuation has increased, which means the state has reduced its subsidy. This has led to some cuts to programs and staffing.

“Under the circumstances, I am proud of this school budget, especially during these inflationary times when many expenses are beyond our control,” Nelson wrote in a budget message to the community. “It is in line with other surrounding school districts in Southern Maine and York County.” He said Sanford spends less per pupil, excluding costs like debt service and vocational program costs that most districts don’t offer, than other area districts.

“Our main goal is to produce a budget that best meets the needs of our students, while doing our best to balance the ability of our community to support these needs. We continue to appreciate that the debt service for our new and upgraded school facilities is fully reimbursed by the State of Maine’s Department of Education each year,” Nelson wrote.

Nelson said the School Committee’s proposed budget “provides the funding necessary to support the changing needs of our students and offer quality educational experiences for our community’s most valuable resource – its children – in light of the ongoing dramatically shifting educational landscape.”

Polls will be open from 7 am to 8 pm on June 11. Besides the school referendum, voters will have a chance to nominate party candidates for president, U.S. House, State Senate and State House The deadline to request an absentee ballot for the state elections – not the school vote – is Thursday, June 6.

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