The Winslow Town Council convened for a special meeting April 29 at the Winslow High School auditorium to discuss next year’s proposed school budget. After more than an hour of heated public comment, the budget was defeated in a 3-3 council vote. On Tuesday, residents approved a $20 million budget. Dylan Tusinski/Morning Sentinel file

WINSLOW — Months of heated debate and an unprecedented council vote culminated Tuesday night with voters approving the Winslow school budget by a hefty margin.

The roughly $20 million budget represents a 7% increase from this year’s budget, which officials said is largely fueled by inflation and the rising cost of everything from gas to labor.

Winslow voters approved the budget by a 17-point margin. Just over 58% of voters supported the budget while 41% voted against it, according to Town Clerk Audra Fleury, as about 30% of Winslow’s roughly 5,300 registered voters returned their ballots.

Town councilors last month, for the first time in Winslow’s history, voted down the proposed budget  in a 3-3 vote during a special council meeting.

Although opposition mounted against the budget as some residents and councilors worried about the impact of rising budgets on residents with fixed incomes, Town Manager Ella Bowman said the increase will not affect residents’ tax bills as the town plans to use up to $950,000 in unassigned funds to offset budgetary increases.

She added Wednesday that she believes the results show residents’ vast support for Winslow’s schools.


“There’s a lot of support for that school. Our teachers, they do a good job,” Bowman said Wednesday. “I was surprised they tried to rip this budget apart because it didn’t represent a tax increase.”

Opponents of the budget rallied around concerns of higher taxes and rising budgets, citing the hiring of four new positions that they claimed were unnecessary and accommodated needs that parents could have addressed.

This year’s budget added a dean of students at the elementary school, a contracted student evaluator and two student support positions at the elementary and high school. About $440,000 will be spent between the four positions.

School administrators, parents and teachers  have said the new roles are necessary to address changes in student behavior since the pandemic and an increasing number of students in special education programs.

District Superintendent Peter Thiboutot said the district now contracts out the two student support roles it intended to hire but having those positions on staff would save money. Even if the district got rid of the positions entirely in the budget, he said, the district is still bound by law to provide their services to students.

About 77% of the proposed budget consists of staff salaries and benefits, according to Thiboutot, which he said is on par with most other districts in the area.

Winslow is not the only school district in central Maine facing a large budget increase. As inflation rises and COVID-era relief funding from both the state and federal governments expires, many communities are cutting teacher positions as their school budgets rise by as much as 10%.

Thiboutot previously said Winslow schools have remained largely unaffected by those problems, which allowed them to hire the four new positions.

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