The proposed spending plan for Fayette schools that goes to voters at the annual Town Meeting on Saturday has sharply divided the select board, the School Committee and the Budget Committee.

Residents get to decide the issues themselves beginning at 9 a.m. Saturday at Fayette Central School. The Town Warrant is posted on the web at www.fayettemaine.org.

The school budget is almost 8.6 percent higher than the current year and the municipal budget is 8 percent higher.

The 2017-2018 property tax rate in the town is $16.50 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

The warrant includes items that could raise the town’s property tax rate by $2.25 or more for each $1,000 in valuation.

The $2 million proposed for spending on the schools budget has the full support of the School Committee, but only two of the six-person Budget Committee and three of the five selectmen.

The $105,161 for student and staff support, which included more than $45,000 for technology and $40,000 for health services has the vote of the School Committee, two of the six members of the budget committee and three of the five selectmen.

The articles to support municipal government show less of a split although an article proposing to raise $22,000 to complete the town’s Comprehensive Plan lacked the support of one member each on the Budget Committee and the select board.

The total municipal budget proposed is just over $1.2 million.

The total tax commitment, as reflected in the proposed budget is just over $3 million, or an increase of 14 percent.

Brent St. Clair, chairman of the Budget Committee, was one of those who voted against recommending it.

“What we’re fighting is a high mil rate increase proposed if everything passes,” he said Wednesday. “I’m concerned that only 40-50 people who come to the town meeting would have the say on what’s going to happen in the town. I just would like to see more consensus of people voting than 40-50.”

He said he is concerned for the effect of the increase on the town’s elderly and low income residents.

“There’s nothing I can say that I’m dead against, but the fact is we can’t afford a 2.25 increase in mil rate,” he said. “We’re going to drive people out of town.”

St. Clair said he has attempted to get an article included that would allow for a discussion of a secret ballot, but that was rejected and that a petition drive to get an advisory vote on the ballot also failed.

Selectmen too urged people to come to Saturday’s meeting. In a letter posted on the town’s website, selectmen wrote, “Since 2008, the actions of your elected state officials have reduced the educational funding for the Town of Fayette from $650,00 to $50,000,” and explain that continuing to use reserve funds to lessen the impact on taxes is not longer viable.

“We have reached a point where we cannot utilize more of our reserves without facing a potential need to borrow funds to carry us through when tax revenue is very slow. In addition, the school is facing unavoidable increases in spending required by state mandates for educating all our students.”

Superintendent Joseph Mattos said the proposed school budget is composed almost entirely of fixed costs, largely tuition for the 35 middle schoolers and the 38 high school students who go to schools outside the town. Fayette operates only Fayette Central School in town, which has 74 students in grades pre-kindergarten through five. “We didn’t put any buffers if more tuition students move in,” Mattos said on Wednesday. “I budgeted exactly for the number of tuition students we have, and already we have two more, each is $10,000. As soon as I get this budget approved, I’m $20,000 short already.

Other fixed costs include transportation and contracted salaries.

Mattos said he increased the budget $4,000 for the gifted and talented program, essentially offering it one day a week rather than a half day and bringing it on a par with art, music and physical education programs. The other $4,000 increase he included was for technology because it’s part of a partnership agreement with Regional School Unit 38.

“I only have about $50,000 of things I can really adjust, books and supplies, because I can’t touch tuition,” Mattos said. “If they say (at Town Meeting) we want to cut $100,000, I can’t touch special ed or tuition, any impact will go right to the k-5 students.”

Voters also will be asked to weigh in on an advisory question about whether selectmen should hold a referendum in November to see if the town wants to spend money to enforce the state junkyard laws.

“We have had complaints from residents that want the town to bring into compliance those areas that qualify and meet the criteria for junkyards,” Town Manager Mark Robinson said on Wednesday. The town’s code enforcement officer’s work is largely concentrated on enforcing the Land Use Ordinance with regard to shoreland and resource protection issues.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

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