Hundreds of residents in towns and cities across central Maine headed to the polls Tuesday to cast their votes for state and local candidates, school budgets and other items on the ballots in their respective communities.

Some came out because they had a particular dog in the fight — a candidate they liked, a budget they opposed. Others turned out to vote simply because it was their democratic duty.

Tuesday morning in Litchfield, several voters said it was a proposed increase in the Regional School Unit 4 budget that they cared about. In interviews outside the polls at the Litchfield Sportmen’s Club, a few said they opposed the tax increases associated with that hike and thought Litchfield shouldn’t have to shoulder so many of the district’s costs.

The other towns in RSU 4 are Sabattus and Wales. The total budget proposed for the district was $18.9 million, up 1.84 percent from this year’s budget, according to information on the district website. The local tax obligation for Litchfield voters in the proposed budget was $3.8 million, up 10 percent from this year.

One Litchfield resident, Douglas Read, a former principal of Richmond Middle School, declined to say how he voted on the proposed school budget but voiced objections to what had been proposed.

Having sat on the educators’ side of the table, Read said he thought the school board had “padded” the budget, knowing they might have to go back to the drawing board if voters rejected it. Read said the school boards he worked with had done the same thing.

He thought the proposed increase for Litchfield voters should not have exceeded 3 percent of this year’s tax obligation, particularly with residents on fixed incomes who can’t keep pace with the tax increases.

“There are a couple of items I would have liked to cut,” Read said of the budget.

Several voters who were interviewed agreed with Read’s assessment, including another former educator, 61-year-old Marlene Patten.

But a small number of voters supported the proposed school budget. One of them, Chance Dodge, 45, said voters elect the school board members and should trust them to do what’s right for the town. Another, Gerry Kemke, 70, said he generally doesn’t think enough is spent on education in the U.S.

Three Litchfield residents were running for an open seat on the town’s Select Board. One of the candidates, Timothy LaChapelle, spent time talking to voters Tuesday morning outside the polls. LaChappelle is running against incumbent Selectwoman Rayna Leibowitz and Kenneth Lizotte.

A couple towns up from Litchfield, voters in Winthrop also were heading to the polls Tuesday to vote on a proposed school budget and a three-year term on the Town Council. Three candidates were running in that race.

Upon exiting the polls, Peggy Pratt, 88, a Democrat, said she had been most interested in voting for Shenna Bellows, of Manchester, who was competing Tuesday for the Democratic nomination to run in Senate District 14 in November. Bellows is running against Terry Berry, of Gardiner, in the primary.

Pratt said that Bellows, who previously ran for a U.S. Senate seat, made an impression on her during a campaign visit a few weeks earlier.

Another resident, Roger LaJeunesse, retired superintendent of the Winthrop School District, said he supported the $11.2 million school budget that had been approved by the Town Council a week earlier and now required voter approval. The proposed budget was 4 percent higher than this year’s $10.8 million budget.

While the flow of voters was steady Tuesday morning in Winthrop and Litchfield, “it was very quiet” at the Augusta State Armory, one of four polling places in the city, said Maryanne McCullough, one of the site’s election officers.

City voters were asked to approve a school budget that had been approved by the City Council, among other items. But McCullough suggested that turnout was low because the council makes so many of the city’s decisions. She predicted the general election in November, when voters elect the next U.S. president, would bring far more traffic.

“It’ll be different. It’ll be crazy,” McCullough said. “Then we’ll be going, ‘Can’t it be June?'”

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @ceichacker


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