Gorham town councilors, in a workshop Tuesday with school officials, reviewed the $36.5 million spending plan that the School Committee approved last month.

The school budget needs approval by the Town Council and validation by Gorham voters in a referendum.

The school budget, as handed to the Town Council, is up $1.4 million from this year’s $35,074,530, representing a 4.04 percent hike. The new school budget is projected to increase the town’s tax rate for property owners 87 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation. So, taxes on a home assessed at $250,000 would increase by $217.50.

Expecting the state’s general purpose aid to come in at $16,287,876, the School Committee passed the budget April 13. Gorham Superintendent Heather Perry said Tuesday that’s the final subsidy figure. At Tuesday’s workshop, she presented a visual report for town councilors, outlining the budget and her budget process.

The school budget is a 97-page document. Town Councilor Ronald Shepard noted on page 66 that the school budget allots $5,000 to provide homeless transportation and he asked for an explanation. Perry said that, by law, Gorham would have to provide transportation for a homeless student, who might have found temporary shelter in Gorham, to the student’s home school in another community.

Matthew Robinson, chairman of the Town Council, said unfunded government mandates are “frustrating,” and he expressed his dissatisfaction in general with the state’s funding contributions for education.

Town Councilor Michael Phinney asked where in the budget cuts could be made  if the council asked the School Committee to “lop off” a couple hundred thousand dollars.

“We haven’t had that conversation,” Dennis Libby, vice chairman of the School Committee, said.

Town Manager David Cole is proposing a $13,594,705-municipal budget, up 3.3 percent, or a $438,564 increase over the present year’s $3,156,141. That doesn’t include the amount Gorham taxpayers owe Cumberland County, which rises to $1,044,423 from $997,969, a 4.7 hike.

The Town Council is scheduled to vote on both the school and municipal budgets at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 7. If the school budget receives a Town Council green light, it then goes to voters in a local referendum on Tuesday, June 14.


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