Two of the four Cape Elizabeth school board candidates support the school project on the Nov. 8 ballot. One wants to find a middle ground and the other has reservations but says it’s up to the voters.

Incumbent Philip Saucier and candidate Caitlin Sweet fully back the $115.9 million plan for new elementary and middle schools, while candidate Arienne Hurder believes the tax burden would be too high. Candidate Lawrence Kaplan also has concerns about the tax impact but says that is a matter for voters to decide.


Saucier, 46, is a registered Democrat, lawyer, and former member of the Portland Zoning Board of Appeals. He hopes the Nov. 8 school referendum passes next month.

“This is difficult and will be a significant expense for our taxpayers,” Saucier said. “But I do strongly believe that we do need (to rebuild) both the elementary school and middle school.”

Simply renovating the current combined elementary-middle school, with an estimated cost of about $90 million, would be inadequate, he said.

“What you’d get is a building that would last a lot fewer years than a new building and would not address the layout and efficiency of the building,” he said. “The buildings are not really designed for the 21st century.”



Sweet, 37, is a communications specialist and was a board member for the nonprofit Mom to Mom of Maine. She agrees that building a new school is more cost-effective than renovating.

“It’s really not a choice between increasing taxes or not increasing taxes,” Sweet said. “The renovation project … is almost as expensive as the new schools and will require an additional renovation in 15 to 20 years.

“It’s a false bill of sale to tell taxpayers if they vote this down, they won’t be facing a large tax increase,” she said.

(Sweet said she could not disclose her political party affiliation due to the Hatch Act, which limits some government employees, like her, from doing so.)


Kaplan, 78, is a registered Democrat and former teacher and chairman of the School Board in Wellesley, Massachusetts. He said that experience will serve him well, especially if the project is voted down.

“There was a fairly expensive proposal to renovate the middle school in Wellesley,” Kaplan said, and the proposal was voted down in a referendum. “Over the period of six months, we’d hammered out a solution that was then passed by the community. I have a really unique opportunity and perspective to review the proposal if it’s voted down.”


Something needs to be done about the schools, but the tax burden is large, Kaplan said, and “that’s really an issue for this community and we’ll see how this goes in November.”


Hurder, 39, is a registered Republican and licensed practical nurse of 16 years. For the past five years she has run a local sock and feminine products drive. A number of safety concerns at the schools need to be fixed, she said, but some sort of “middle ground” is the solution.

“I attended the town hearing in August and I listened as many of my neighbors cried because they weren’t going to be able to bear this extra burden,” Hurder said. “There has to be a middle ground somewhere between the tax that’s going to be put on them and no schools.”

The potential tax burden could have a negative impact on Cape Elizabeth’s efforts to become more affordable, she said.

“In the last few years, we’ve talked about bringing affordable housing into Cape and people want to be very welcoming, and that’s wonderful,” Hurder said. “But we have to decide: Are we a welcoming town that welcomes people of all incomes or are we only a town of the super-rich? I’m not OK with anyone having to leave town because of new schools.”

All four candidates acknowledged the need to work to retain current school staff and attract new ones amidst a statewide shortage of teachers and ed techs.


Kaplan said affordable housing can be tied to staffing issues because jobs can be more attractive for employees when they are able to live in the same town.

“Teachers are using their own money out of pocket to buy school supplies and other needs of their students beyond their salary,” he said.

Hurder stressed the need to explore whether Cape Elizabeth is on par with the rest of New England in terms of education salaries.

“They (also) want support from administration,” Hurder said. “They want freedom in their classrooms and to not have to teach from the tests continuously.”

Saucier, the current chairperson of the school board’s finance committee, said the new schools will help attract and retain staff and that supporting teachers requires community support.

“We need to listen to our teachers,” he said. “We need to let them teach and support them through our community. It really is a community effort, and to make sure that the schools are a positive and productive school and work environment. In other words, a good place to work.”


Sweet agreed, noting that the current facilities “are a deterrent.”

“The budget is probably exactly where we attract teachers, either via salaries or via facilities,” she said. “At the moment, it’s focusing on facilities because we know that teachers are leaving because of ours.”

Incumbent Kimberly Carr is not seeking reelection.


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