Gorham’s preliminary school spending plan of $54.4 million for next year would raise the portion of property taxes to fund education 35.4%.

Superintendent Heather Perry’s proposed budget for the 2023-24 school year, presented to the Gorham School Committee last week, is up 17.2%, nearly $8 million, over this year’s budget.

“This has been the most difficult budget process thus far in my 16-year career as a superintendent of schools in Maine,” Perry wrote in a letter to the Gorham School Committee Feb. 8, when her budget was presented.

The school committee will review Perry’s request, come up with its own proposal during a series of workshops and vote on its plan April 12. The Town Council will then vote on the committee’s budget May 16 before sending it to voters in a referendum June 13.

Under Perry’s proposal, taxpayers’ share would rise to $31.5 million from $23.3 million, representing an increase of $8.2 million or 35.4%. The tax rate to support Gorham education would rise from $8.06 per thousand dollars of valuation to $10.87, an increase of $2.81.

It would mean taxes on a $400,000 home to support schools would jump to $4,346.77 from $3,221.96 this year, a hike of $1,124.81, according to school figures.


Those property tax numbers don’t include any potential tax increase resulting from the upcoming town budget.

Town Manager Ephrem Paraschak said the school budget represents a little less than 70% of the total municipal budget. Paraschak will present his proposed town budget to the council by April 1.

Large items driving up the school budget include $2.2 million in salary increases; nearly $1 million to sustain current programs; $631,828 in health insurance increases; and $341,429 in utility increases that are mostly for electricity, according to Perry.

Meanwhile, the state’s general purpose subsidy is expected to rise slightly to about $20.5 million from $20.2 million for an increase of $259,765.

Town Councilor Phil Gagnon, a former school committee member, said he plans to fully scrutinize the school proposal.


“We had one of the largest tax increases in town history on its citizens this past year,” Gagnon said. “I’m going to ask every question possible on TV for the taxpayer,” Gagnon said.


Gorham had a revaluation of residential properties last year.

Gagnon was also outspoken about the school committee at a council meeting Feb. 7. At the meeting, the council agreed 5-1, with Gagnon opposed and Chairperson Lee Pratt absent, to change the usual date of the council’s vote from its June meeting to a special meeting May 16.

School Committee Chairperson Darryl Wright told the council the date change was needed to give the committee more time to adjust the budget if required by the council. With a June council vote on the budget so close to the referendum vote, the committee is often forced to make “adjustments in one evening,” Wright said.

But Gagnon took issue with the request. Last year, for example, he said, the School Committee had “pretty much already decided” what it could cut well before being ordered by the council to make a $1.5 million reduction. He called the committee’s budget process “political Kabuki theater.”

He opposed shortening the council’s review of the school budget by three weeks to rush its vote for the “convenience” of the school committee, he said.

School budget workshops are scheduled for 7 p.m. in the municipal center on Feb. 28, March 7, March 14, March 21 and March 28. The school committee and Town Council will conduct public hearings before their votes.

The preliminary school budget can be reviewed at gorhamsuperintendent.blogspot.com.

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