GORHAM —The Gorham Town Council last week in a workshop rejected the School Committee’s $43.1 million budget proposal and emphatically directed the committee to submit a budget for the next school year that does not raise taxes.

The Town Council will likely vote on the local budget at a special meeting June 16. The school budget validation referendum is set for July, 14.

The School Committee in April voted 6-1, with Bill Benson opposed, to approve a $43.1 million budget and send it to the council for review.

The proposal is up $2.1 million from this year’s $41 million budget, representing a 5.1% increase. To support local education, the school budget as proposed was estimated to raise property taxes 45 cents per $1,000 of valuation. Using estimated total evaluation figures for the town, it would add $112.50 to property taxes on a home assessed at $250,000.

But the council, with eyes on a potential economic downturn because of the pandemic, wants a “zero” tax increase.

“Anything we can do to keep this budget flat needs to be done,” Town Councilor Lee Pratt said.

“I don’t want a tax increase for our citizens,” Councilor Virginia Wilder Cross said.

Superintendent Heather Perry said $770,000 would need to be reduced to achieve a zero tax increase. That could be achieved through a combination of reductions and using a fund balance that has accrued over time. After last week’s meeting, Perry said the undesignated fund balance was $1.5 million, and she expects it to be about $2 million when this fiscal year ends.

Perry said a fund balance results from unexpected increases in revenues and/or decreases in spending. Using the funds requires approval of voters.

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