Mainers across the state will vote Tuesday on education spending for the next 12 months.

Some local budget proposals would add new teachers and staff. Others would force layoffs. And nearly all would mean larger tax property bills.

But one common factor in every budget proposal is a lack of certainty about state funding. That’s because the Maine Legislature has yet to decide on how much education funding will be made available in the next two-year state budget, and how those dollars will be distributed.

That’s not uncommon. Every two years, towns are forced to finalize their school budgets while the Legislature is still debating the details of school funding.

This year, however, a partisan battle over future of education funding generated by a voter-approved 3 percent tax surcharge is at the heart of a threatened veto of the entire state budget. The tax surcharge will not result in additional education funds until next year, but the fight over whether to eliminate or preserve the surcharge means the entire budget – and education funding levels for this year – likely won’t be decided until the end of this month.

In the meantime, most districts are moving forward based on the amount of funding in Gov. Paul LePage’s initial budget proposal, with the expectation that they will make adjustments this summer after the state budget is settled. Some districts are seeking voter authorization Tuesday to make future budget adjustments without another referendum, while others will have a second vote this summer or will put any additional money aside for next year’s budget.


State law requires that local voters approve education spending, which is why school budgets go to referendum votes and most municipal budgets do not. Some communities also will have additional referendum votes, including a few votes on municipal budgets or major construction projects.

This year, all Maine communities also will be voting on a $50 million state bond proposal to stimulate research and development of new technology.

Here is a look at local ballot issues in southern Maine and the midcoast:


Voters in Durham, Freeport and Pownal will go to the polls Tuesday to consider a $32.2 million operating budget for Regional School Unit 5 in 2017-18.

The proposed spending plan is $1.2 million, or 4 percent, higher than the $31 million budget that ends June 30, according to budget documents. The amount to be raised in taxes among the three towns would increase about $1.2 million, or 5.25 percent, from $23.6 million to $24.8 million, depending on how much state education aid the school district receives.


If approved, the budget would increase Durham’s tax rate by about 57 cents per $1,000 in property value; Freeport’s tax rate by 55 cents, and Pownal’s tax rate by 96 cents. The potential increase in the annual tax bill on a $250,000 home would be about $142 in Durham, $137 in Freeport and $240 in Pownal.

Voting is 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Community School in Durham; 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Freeport High School; and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Mallett Hall in Pownal.

For more information, go to

– Kelley Bouchard


Biddeford residents will vote Tuesday on a $35.6 million education budget for 2017-18 that would have no impact on property taxes based on the city’s projected state subsidy.


The proposed budget includes a spending increase of just over $549,000, but that was offset by an increase in the city’s proposed state allocation for education funding. The budget allows the district to add a pre-K program and several positions.

Biddeford saw a proposed increase in its state allocation because of several factors, including a lower property valuation rate and an increase in the number of English language learners and low-income students. The state subsidy increase of $1 million under the governor’s proposed budget allowed the district to add a pre-K program, which has been a goal for several years, said Superintendent Jeremy Ray.

“We are extremely excited to be adding three pre-K classrooms to serve 96 students,” Ray said. “We’re happy to do that in a budget that doesn’t increase costs.”

The budget calls for the addition of an English Language Learner education technician and an ed tech for the pre-K program. It also allows the district to hire an individual to work at the Center of Technology and Adult Education to connect students with internships at local businesses.

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the Tiger Gym at Biddeford High School.

For more information, go to


– Gillian Graham


Residents of Brunswick will decide on an annual school budget and a proposal to build a new school.

The school board’s revised $37 million budget will go before voters after the school board and town council made reductions to limit the overall tax increase to 3 percent. The initial $38 million proposal represented a 1 percent spending increase but would have forced a 5 percent tax increase, in part because of a proposed $1 million decrease in the town’s state education subsidy.

The school board’s reductions included removing a curriculum coordinator position, a special education secretary, an intervention teacher at the junior high school, freshman sports programs, professional development, and a school resource officer position. If the district receives more than anticipated, the school board will allocate money toward restoring the cut programs, with any money left over put toward relieving the tax burden.

Voters also will decide on a $28 million bond for the construction of a new school to replace the aging Coffin Elementary School. The school would be constructed on the site of the former Jordan Acres School, and would be funded locally.


Construction of a new school has been discussed for over six years, since budget issues forced the closure of the Jordan Acres School in 2011. Initially, the school board approached the town council with a plan to renovate Coffin Elementary School, a proposal that was turned down in favor of a new school.

Recent decisions on the state level have also complicated matters, with the Department of Education reopening bids for state-funded school projects. While Brunswick has applied for state funding to replace both Coffin Elementary School and the junior high school, the district won’t hear back from the state until June 2018.

If voters approve the $28 million proposal for a new school on Tuesday, projections put the increase to property taxes at 4.38 percent in 2020, lasting for the next 15 years and beginning to decrease in 2037.

Voting will take place at Brunswick Junior High School from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

For more information, visit

– Chris Chase, Coastal Journal


RSU 21

Residents in the three towns of Regional School Unit 21 will vote Tuesday on a $45.8 million budget that includes the first payments on a $56.5 million locally funded school renovation project.

The budget for the district that serves Kennebunk, Kennebunkport and Arundel is up more than $2.7 million, or 6.3 percent, in part because of a reduction in state aid and the project that renovated two elementary schools and Kennebunk High school, according to Superintendent Katie Hawes.

The budget includes $1.3 million in new payments on the school renovation bond, which was approved by voters two years ago. The elementary school renovations in Arundel and Kennebunkport are already complete and work at the high school will wrap up next December.

Hawes said the budget also includes $1.3 million in additional salary and benefit costs because of contracted teacher raises of 2 percent and a 9.1 percent jump in health insurance premiums. Additionally, the district has budgeted $248,000 to purchase eight clean-energy buses. A grant from the EPA will offset $160,000 of that cost.

Hawes said another significant factor leading to the budget increase is an estimated reduction of $527,000 in state education aid, though the district is still waiting to find out the final number.


If approved, the education budget will add the following amounts to the monthly tax bill for a $250,000 home: $16.67 in Arundel, $16.88 in Kennebunk and $10.42 in Kennebunkport.

Polls are open in Kennebunkport from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Village Fire Station on North Street. Kennebunk residents can vote from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the town hall auditorium. Polls in Arundel will be open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Arundel Fire Station.

For more information, go to

– Gillian Graham

SAD 51

Voters in Cumberland and North Yarmouth will consider a 2.8 percent budget increase for School Administrative District 51 when they go to the polls on Tuesday.


The proposed $36 million operating budget for 2017-18 is $990,815 higher than the $35 million spending plan that runs through June 30, according to budget documents. The total local assessment would increase $1.5 million, or 6.5 percent, from $22.5 million to $24 million, depending on how much state education aid the district receives.

If approved, the budget would increase the tax rate in each town by about 64 cents per $1,000 in property value. The potential increase in the annual tax bill on a $300,000 home would be about $192.

Voting is from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Cumberland Town Hall and North Yarmouth Memorial School.

For more information, go to

– Kelley Bouchard



Voters in Regional School Unit 1, which serves Bath, Phippsburg, Arrowsic, and Woolwich, will vote on a school budget that got preliminary approval at a May 30 district budget meeting.

The proposal is just shy of $29 million and represents a 2.5 percent increase over the current budget. Depending on what the state decides to grant towns in the way of subsidies, the local property tax contribution is estimated to increase by just under 4 percent. The impact will vary in each community.

For more information, visit

Polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Arrowsic Town Hall, Bath Middle School, Phippsburg Town Hall and Woolwich Central School.

– Chris Chase, Coastal Journal



Gorham voters decide Tuesday on a $37.6 million school budget for 2017-18.

The school spending plan is up nearly $1.3 million, or 3.7 percent, over the budget that expires June 30.

In response to increasing enrollment numbers, the proposed budget would add four new teachers and two new educational technicians at the elementary level next year. The Gorham School Committee has created a study group to suggest changes to kindergarten through fifth grade configurations for the fiscal year 2019 budget. Other major drivers for new spending are contractual salary increases and health insurance costs, as well as a new planning block for elementary school teachers.

The budget proposal going to voters is slightly less than the original from the school department. The Gorham Town Council on Tuesday asked the school committee to reduce the budget by $300,000, and that money eventually came out of the capital improvement plan.

The school budget proposal part of a $53.1 million combined municipal, school and county spending plan that would increase the property tax rate by an estimated 78 cents, or 4.9 percent, from $17 to $17.78 per $1,000 of assessed property value. At that rate, the annual tax bill on a $200,000 home would increase $156, from $3,400 to $3,556.

Polling places open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. Depending on street address, residents of Ward 1 vote at either Gorham Middle School at 106 Weeks Road or Little Falls Activity Center at 40 Acorn St. Ward 2 residents vote at the Gorham Municipal Center at 75 South St.


For more information on the school budget, go to

– Megan Doyle


Sanford residents will vote Tuesday on a $43 million state-funded school project and city and school budgets that will not increase the property tax rate.

The school project will reconfigure the city’s pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade schools once a new high school currently under construction opens to students in 2018. School officials say the reconfiguration will bring equity to programs and services for all middle and elementary schools, reduce educational transitions, eliminate portable classrooms and secure all school entries.

Under the plan – which is entirely funded by the state – Lafayette and Willard elementary schools will close. The former high school will become a middle school for grades five to eight and the former junior high school become a pre-K to fourth-grade elementary school for more than 500 students. Margaret Chase Smith and Carl J. Lamb schools will also become pre-K to fourth-grade schools for more than 500 students. The Memorial Gym will go to the city for continued use.


Residents also will vote on referendum questions seeking approval for state-mandated asbestos abatement in the high school and junior high buildings. The state will forgive more than 65 percent of the $488,456 bond for high school work and $117,257 loan for abatement at the junior high.

The combined $69.2 million municipal and education spending package headed to voters will not increase the property tax rate, which is $22.74 for every $1,000 of valuation. About $30.6 million needs to be raised through local taxation. The city will use $1.1 million from its undesignated municipal fund balance to avoid a tax increase and allow the addition of a police officer, dispatcher and two firefighter/paramedics.

The $43.3 million education budget is up $5.2 million from the current budget, but the local appropriation will stay the same at $14.4 million. Sanford picked up an additional $4 million in state education subsidy.

Polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday. Ward 1 residents vote at the Nasson Community Center on Main Street, Ward 2 residents vote at St. Ignatius Parish Hall on Riverside Avenue and Ward 3 residents vote at Curtis Lake Church on Westview Drive.

For more information, go to

– Gillian Graham



South Portland voters will consider a 2.36 percent increase in school spending for 2017-18 when they go to the polls on Tuesday.

The proposed $48.8 million school budget is $1.1 million higher than the $47.7 million school spending plan for the fiscal year ending June 30.

The school budget proposal is part of a combined $85.5 million spending plan for municipal, school and county services that would increase overall expenditures in the coming year by $2.7 million, or 3.3 percent, according to preliminary numbers from City Finance Director Greg L’Heureux.

The City Council is reviewing a proposed municipal budget that would increase $1.5 million, or 4.6 percent, from $32.6 million to $34.1 million.

The overall amount to be raised in taxes for municipal, school and county expenses would increase $1.4 million, or 2.4 percent, from $61 million to 62.4 million.


As proposed, the tax rate would increase 60 cents, or 3.39 percent, from $17.70 to $18.30 per $1,000 in property value. At that rate, the annual tax bill on a $250,000 home would increase $150, from $4,425 to $4,575.

Voting will be from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the South Portland Community Center.

For more information, go to

– Kelley Bouchard


Cape Elizabeth voters will consider a $24.9 million school budget on Tuesday that calls for a $591,468, or 2.4 percent, spending increase for the 2017-18 school year.


The school proposal is part of a $38.7 million overall budget for municipal, school and county services that would increase overall spending by 2 percent during the fiscal year starting July 1.

The amount to be raised in property taxes for the combined budgets would increase $1.2 million, or 4.1 percent, from $29.5 million to $30.7 million.

The property tax rate would increase 65 cents, or 3.7 percent, from $17.54 to $18.19 per $1,000 in property value. At that rate, the annual tax bill on a $300,000 home would increase $195, from $5,262 to $5,457.

Voters also will be asked a separate nonbinding question to indicate whether they think the proposed school budget is too high, acceptable or too low.

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the high school gym.

For more information, go to

– Kelley Bouchard

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