Over 200 Raymond residents turned out at their annual town meeting on Saturday. They voted to approve both a 4.4 percent increase to the 2005/06 school budget and a 4.6 percent increase to the 2005/06 municipal budget.

Alan Stone moderated this year’s event at Jordan Small Middle School where, for over six hours, residents discussed, debated, and eventually approved 63 of the 66 warrant articles. The three that failed to pass concerned land use ordinance changes based on the town’s updated comprehensive plan. Please see story on page 7.

Residents vigorously debated Article 4, which proposed an appropriation of just over $281,000 for the Office of the Superintendent/Principal/School Board. Discussion lasted for nearly an hour and centered on the position and salary of Raymond Superintendent of Schools Sandra Caldwell.

Some questioned if Raymond needed a superintendent while others expressed amazement at her salary and benefits package. Brenda Stevenson, outgoing school board member, spoke of Caldwell’s dedication and work ethic. “I can’t overemphasize the importance of the leadership,” said Stevenson.

Raymond citizen Mary McIntyre said, “There are large numbers of support staff who have been working for two years without a contract… Leadership is important but it’s also about the people working one on one with the kids every day.”

School board member Frank Dexter had the last word before the question went to a vote. He said Caldwell worked far more hours than her contract required. “There is ‘administrivia’ that must be done… My personal belief is she does it admirably… There’s a part of me that feels we’re doing something unethical.”

When the votes were tallied, Article 4 passed, 106 to 86.

Article 52, which requested $10,000 to publish the Road Runner, prompted more debate. Raymond resident Charles Leavitt read a 2002 email from Don Willard in which Willard indicated he did not support the paper.

Willard replied that he now advocates the publication “if the people want it.”

One resident said that the Road Runner “helps create a community that we sometimes forget we have here.”

When the vote was taken, Article 52 passed easily.

Passing by a much narrower vote, Article 53 recommended the appropriation of $58,000 to construct a digital broadcast studio. Some voters were concerned about dropping the level of money in reserve. Others questioned the additional expense the studio would entail after the initial expenditure.

Kevin Woodbrey replied that the operating costs would be low: “The administration is almost nothing – it’s actually easier than driving it over to Casco… The computer can be programmed to play without anyone there.

When the Article went to a vote, it passed 64 to 59.

Article 54, which asked for $100,000 to purchase 83 acres of land on Egypt Road, the site of an old landfill, also prompted extensive discussion. Many people were concerned with the town’s plans for the property.

Mark Gendron said he felt it was important to protect their “children’s interest down the road.” He said the property owner was looking into developing the land and that the price she was willing to take from the town was fair.

Willard explained that the landfill portion, which is only about three acres of the total 83, was capped in the early 1980’s. The town worked closely with the DEP to test the site but the problem is in what contaminants might surface in future years.

One resident encouraged the voters, saying, “Let’s take responsibility for what we created ourselves.”

Although the discussion lasted quite awhile, the Article passed with little opposition.

A pleasant break in the day’s business was the presentation of a plaque to Dr. Meg Waters, outgoing director of Special Services, recognizing her 30 years of service. A second plaque was presented to outgoing school board member Brenda Stevenson for her six years of service.

Raymond resident Susan Gendron defends the amount requested for the Raymond Superintendent’s salary. Gendron serves as Maine