MANCHESTER — Residents at the annual Town Meeting agreed to spend $12,000 in town money to pay for an education technician for the afternoon pre-kindergarten program at Manchester Elementary School.

The request for town funding was unusual because it will pay for a position that would normally be included in the school budget, not the town’s.

School officials said the money will be used to pay for an education technician to join a teacher in overseeing the new afternoon session of the pre-kindergarten program at the elementary school.

In other pre-kindergarten programs at Regional School Unit 38 schools in Readfield and Mount Vernon, Head Start pays for the second teacher to join single teachers funded by the district.

However, Manchester is not eligible under income guidelines for a similar position to be funded by Head Start, according to Pia Holmes, principal of the elementary schools in Manchester and Mount Vernon.

She said school district leaders agreed to pay for a part-time ed tech position for the morning session, but not the afternoon session. She said 25 students have signed up for the program and expressed concern about having only one teacher for the afternoon session for four-year-olds.

“We all see the importance of getting early interventions. It is invaluable,” Holmes said. “We have had lower scores than some of the other schools in the district, because many of our children have not had an opportunity to attend preschool. I think this will be a wonderful thing for our community. It will improve learning for students in our community. So that’s why we’re doing this. Our school has always been supported by the community.”

Selectman Robert Gasper said he supported the proposal, but wanted to make sure people understood the program, with 25 students, would continue and none of those students would be turned away, even without the $12,000. But he agreed having one teacher for around 10 four-year-olds could be a handful.

No residents expressed opposition to the proposal in a voice vote at Thursday’s meeting.

Residents also adopted a sex offender ordinance that bans sex offenders convicted of acts against children from living within 750 feet of a school or 1,500 feet of a daycare center, or from entering a school or daycare, unless authorized by a school administrator or daycare owner.

A 2009 state law allows municipalities to restrict where certain sex offenders live. Municipalities cannot ban sex offenders from living within their borders, just set limits.

According to the law, communities can only restrict sex offenders convicted of crimes against minors under 14 years of age from living within 750 feet from schools and municipal property where children are the primary users. The law says nothing about allowing municipalities to restrict sex offenders from day care centers.

Town Manager Patrick Gilbert said the $1.76 million town budget itself should have no impact on the tax rate. The budget is up 1.53 percent, or about $26,000, but Gilbert said that increase will be offset by taking money from the fund balance, which is made up of money left unspent in previous years.

However, Manchester’s share of the RSU 38 budget is up more than 15 percent, or about $460,000, over the previous year.

Residents won’t likely know what their tax bills will be until after state revenue sharing and other state budget issues are settled in the state Legislature, the timing of which is uncertain.

Gilbert said the best case scenario, with the town getting the same amount of revenue sharing from the state it got this year, would be a $1.33 increase in the tax rate, which is currently $13.80 per $1,000 of valuation.

Worst case scenario, if the town gets no revenue sharing money, would be a rate increase of $1.85 per thousand.

Residents adopted new standards for itinerant vendors who sell items on the roadside temporarily. The new rules will charge non-residents $100 a week to have such a business and $25 a year for residents

Officials said non-residents will be charged more because they don’t pay property taxes.

A local businessman said roadside vendors have an unfair advantage because they don’t have to meet the same safety and food-handling standards as businesses in a building, and they also don’t contribute to the community.

“All the brick and mortar businesses are here 12 months a year and provide a service to the community,” said Todd Ballard, of Ballard Meats and Seafood. “Not just in taxes, but also donations to school groups and so on. We do it because we’re part of our community. We also have large overheads for being in this town. And we have to have three-bay sinks, water that’s 160 degrees, toilets … For vendors, there are no standards.”

About 60 people were there for the start of the meeting, in the gymnasium of Manchester Elementary School, well down from last year’s meeting. This year’s meeting was also more sedate, compared to last year’s raucous meeting which had numerous disruptions and contentious debate on many warrant articles.

Residents also approved $6,200 to help support seven social service organizations, including the Family Violence Project and Kennebec Behavioral Health.

In response to one resident’s question about why spending for the organizations doubled from last year, Terri Watson, a member of the Budget Committee, said the feeling of the committee was in each of the last several years the town has given the organizations less than they had asked for.

“Our thinking was let’s step it up, it has been years,” Watson said, noting the organizations often have a hard time raising private money. “We picked organizations that had more difficult issues to deal with, like domestic violence and mental illness. Things you don’t generally find people marching for.”

Keith Edwards — 621-5647
[email protected]

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