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School Budget Set for Voter Referendum in June

At its meeting on April 5, 2022, the Sanford City Council heard a presentation by Wesley Davie, Chair of the Budget Committee, on the recommended municipal and school budgets for fiscal year 2022/23. After voting unanimously to table the municipal budget until it could be discussed further at a workshop, the Council took up the School Department budget.

The recommended School budget included appropriations of $58,894,561 and Capital Reserve spending of $363,995, against revenue of $43,780,711, leaving $15,477,845 to be raised from taxation. This is an increase of $727,027 from the current year’s budget, or 4.93%.

Initially, the Council’s vote on the school budget tied at 3-3, with Mayor Anne-Marie Mastraccio and Councilors Becky Brink and Bob Stackpole voting in favor of the budget as recommended, and Deputy Mayor Maura Herlihy and Councilors Ayn Hanselmann and Jonathan Martell voting against.

There was discussion on whether the Council should also table further discussion on the School side of the budget pending a workshop. City Clerk Sue Cote said only the warrant to put the budget out to voter referendum in June was required by law to be passed that evening. Superintendent of Schools Matt Nelson said it would be better not to put off voting on a bottom-line number, as the School Department is in the middle of planning for the next school year and needs to know whether or not funds will be cut.

Councilor Hanselmann was in favor of using some of the Department’s fund balance to reduce the net-to-taxation amount. Mr. Nelson responded that changes to the state’s funding formula for schools next year are expected to require use of the entire fund balance, and School Department Business Manager Cheryl Fournier concurred.

Deputy Mayor Herlihy expressed concern that adding so many new personnel positions to the budget could result in massive increases in future years. Councilor Stackpole pointed out that the schools received almost $1 million in unanticipated funding last year, which was returned to the City to provide tax relief. Councilor Brink added that the funding was needed this year due to the tremendous social/emotional needs of students following the pandemic. She argued that having a good school system is drawing businesses into the community.

Councilor Martell motioned to table the discussion, but his motion died for lack of a second. After further back and forth, he motioned to reduce the net-to-taxation number to zero. That motion also died for lack of a second, and the Council pressed on. Councilor Hanselmann then motioned to reduce the appropriations bottom line by $250,000. The vote this time was also 3-3, with the entire Council voting opposite to their initial votes.

Councilor Stackpole then brought back the original motion, to approve the budget as recommended by the Budget Committee. This time, Deputy Mayor Herlihy changed her vote to yes, and the motion passed 4-2. As a final thought, she said “Don’t expect this on the municipal side – something’s got to give.”

Voters will have the final say on the School Budget at the referendum election on June 14.

The full City Council meeting video may be viewed here. The budget presentation begins at about 1:20:00.

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