JACKMAN — Voters have twice shot down the school budget this summer, and now the town must delay setting tax commitments, and may have to cut services or borrow money.

Residents in School Administrative District 12 are divided over paying more for the cost of education in a community that already has less than one teacher in each grade level, according to the superintendent. The district includes Jackman and Moose River.

On July 30 residents rejected a $2.16 million budget, which represents an increase of about two percent from the current budget. The budget was rejected 60-38 in a total vote of residents in the two towns that make up the district.

It was the second time the town voted down the budget in referendum, the second part of the passage process, though it has passed twice in public meetings. It also failed June 10.

A special town meeting will be held on Thursday, asking residents for their input on pushing back the date on which tax commitments are set and the date by which taxes must be paid. The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Jackman Municipal Building.

The meeting follows a decision by the Board of Assessors to delay setting tax commitments, which were originally scheduled to be set by Aug. 1. Tax commitments are based on the revenue needed to run the town, which is calculated using local, county and school budgets.

“The selectmen want to hear from people,” said Town Manager Kathleen MacKenzie. “You don’t want to go ahead and commit taxes the day after people vote down the school budget. If their ultimate budget is higher, that money has to come from our bottom line.”

It is possible for a rate to be set using the most recently approved number from the public meeting, but if that number doesn’t reflect the budget that actually passes, the town will have to borrow money or cut services elsewhere, said MacKenzie.

According to Superintendent John Davis, residents are divided between those that say they cannot afford to spend more money on education and those who are unhappy with cuts, including a reduction in the number of teachers in recent years.

In the 2013-2014 school year there were 184 enrolled students in the district and 18.5 teachers, according to the state Department of Education.

“It hasn’t been easy with the flattening of statewide dollars,” said Davis. “There are people who would like more teachers and those who say it is too expensive. We just haven’t found the right mix at this time.”

The budget committee has come up with a third version of the budget that the school board will consider on Aug. 20, said Davis. After that it will be voted on at a public meeting and in a referendum vote in September.

Districts around the state are required to submit financial data to the state Department of Education by Aug. 20, but are not penalized if they are late, according to Joanne Allen, school finance and compliance coordinator for the Maine Department of Education.

SAD 12 is not alone in struggling to pass a budget, she said, although the department does not have a comprehensive list of districts that still don’t have one.

“Sadly it is not unusual. As the economy has gone through some changes it’s not as easy and folks are watching their tax dollars,” she said.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

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