Taxes are heading upwards in Gorham even after the Town Council made some last-minute reductions Tuesday in the municipal and school budgets.

The $62.5 million combined budget – $18.3 million for the municipal budget and $44.2 million for the schools –is up from $60.2 million this year. Councilors approved the budgets Tuesday at their first in-person meeting in more than a year. The school budget goes to voters Tuesday, June 8, in a validation referendum.

The town’s total estimated property tax rate rises 64 cents to $18.85 per thousand dollars of assessed value, up from $18.21 this year. Taxes on a $300,000 home would rise from $5,463 to $5,655.

The town budget raises the town side tax rate a projected 20 cents, the county tax raises it 2 cents and the school budget raises it 42 cents.

The $18.3 million municipal budget is up 4.9% from this year’s budget. The council eliminated a proposed town hall administrative assistant position Tuesday costing $65,268 that was in the initial $18.4 million proposed budget. Chairman Lee Pratt said the position was not warranted.

Town councilors approved a $44.2 million school spending plan after cutting $300,000 from the school committee’s request. The school budget is now up 3.6% or $1.5 million from this year’s $42.7 million.

The school budget narrowly passed 4-3 with councilors Janet Kuech, Ron Shepard and Ben Hartwell opposed.

The School Committee met Tuesday in a late session after a council harangue that haggled over school cuts of $400,000, $345,000 and $223,000 before settling on $300,000.

Superintendent Heather Perry said Wednesday the School Committee reduced $200,000 from facilities maintenance and $100,000 from regular instruction lines for benefits and supplies. No positions were cut, she said.

In a report before the budget discussions Tuesday, School Committee Vice Chairperson Anne Schools said the town could receive $1.6 million more in state subsidy money than originally expected.

Town Councilor James Hager said he wanted any additional funds the School Department receives dedicated to capital improvements. Shepard suggested a compromise with 50% of any extra funds going to reduce
taxes.

The council approved the compromise under the scenario that a state windfall comes through.

Pratt on Wednesday praised the council, school committee, town manager and town staff for their work in producing “fiscally responsible” budgets this year.

“Where last year was flat rated on both sides, this year had its needs, and I feel as though those needs on both the school and town side were met. This decision is now up to the voters and as always I encourage everyone to go out and vote on June 8th,” Pratt said.

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