GORHAM–With school spending up slightly and a town budget down, the Gorham Town Council will decide on a proposed $42.6 million-municipal budget, a combination of both proposed plans, next month.

Before any Town Council action, the public will have a chance to be heard on the town’s municipal budget at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, June 1, in the Gorham Municipal Center, 75 South St. Even with Town Council approval, the school side of the budget goes to Gorham voters on Tuesday, June 8.

If approved, the budgets mean a tax hike of about 14 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

In a joint workshop meeting Tuesday, the council heard a school budget presentation from school officials.

The proposed $30.4 million school budget the School Committee approved in April is up $685,311, representing a 2.3 percent increase on the $29.7 million passed last year. The state’s general purpose aid to Gorham education is dropping $582,000 from $16.9 to $16.3 million.

The Gorham schools’ share of federal stimulus money amounts to $755,079, which, according to Superintendent Ted Sharp, cannot be included in the budget total. The school budget also includes debt payments on the new elementary school now under construction.

The town’s side of the budget, which includes the county’s share of $766.668, is $12.3 million, down $152,692 or a 1.2 percent decrease from $12.4 million.

“The budget has been another tough budget reflecting a tough economy,” Gorham Town Manager David Cole said following Tuesday’s meeting. “It’s been a tough time like for everyone in the private sector,” Cole said. “We’re not facing it alone.”

The school side of the proposed budget would raise the existing tax rate 18 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation from $10.12 to support schools to $10.30. Meanwhile, the combined town plan and Gorham’s county obligation represents a 4 cent decrease on the town’s side of the tax rate from $5.21 to $5.17. If both budgets were approved as proposed, the overall tax rate would increase about 14 cents per $1,000.

“I hate to see increases,” Mike Phinney, chairman of the Town Council, said Wednesday. “Overall, I’m very happy with work the school department and the town manager’s staff has done,” Phinney said.

Although the $11.5 million to run the town is down by $129,531 from $11.6 million, there are no layoffs of town employees. But the proposed school budget does cut the equivalent of 15.6 full-time positions, including seven educational technicians and 6.6 teachers. But the number of those actually losing jobs is reduced by attrition.

In the past few years, the School Department had already eliminated 51 positions including a business manager and the White Rock School principal, who retired and was not replaced.

Decisions by Gorham voters on local referendum questions on the June ballot could impact the town’s side of the budget. Voters will determine whether to authorize a new $450,000 squad truck for the Fire and Rescue Department and a $3 million road bond question.

In a non-binding referendum, Gorham voters in June are also being asked whether they would authorize a $1 surcharge on the property tax rate to be used for capital improvements in town.


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