A Gorham Town Council vote on the school budget drew a big audience Tuesday. Robert Lowell/American Journal

The Gorham Town Council ordered the school committee last week to cut $800,000 from its proposed $52.2 million budget proposal and approved sending a $51.5 million school budget to voters next month.

The council also unanimously passed a $21.7 million municipal budget, up from $19.7 million this year and including the $1.5 million county tax assessed on the town.

Under the combined $73.2 million budget, the town’s tax rate will rise about 11%, from $12.85 per thousand dollars of assessed value to an estimated $14.26, Gorham Finance Director Sharon LaFlamme said Wednesday. Taxes on a home assessed at $400,000 will rise $564, from $5,140 to $5,704.

The school’s share of the tax rate hike is $1.31, according to school Business Manager Hollis Cobb.

While the council can order the school committee to cut its budget, it can’t dictate how.

“It’s up to the school committee (now) to decide where the money is spent,” Council Vice Chairperson Ronald Shepard said.


Residents packed Town Council chambers Tuesday, with many parents and educators speaking in support of the school budget as proposed and many retirees opposing it because of the tax increase.

Brooke Proulx, a staff member at Gorham Middle School, said she’s tired of the budget process dividing the community and tired of the uncertainty it poses for students.

“You continue to allow Gorham to grow residentially when our schools are already bursting at the seams,” Proulx told the council. “You continue to allow residential growth with no plan on how you can fund the schools.”

Michelle Littlefield, a parent and school volunteer, objected to fingers being pointed at Superintendent Heather Perry and the school committee. Littlefield asked the council to support the budget in full.

“I will not support any budget that removes services from my children and their friends,” Littlefield said.

Sarah Plummer, a program coordinator at Cape Elizabeth High School, said Gorham school staff is already stretched and students cannot afford to lose programs.


“Our children’s education needs to be put first,” Plummer said in urging the council to approve the school committee’s budget.

Several retired residents also spoke up, including Susan Sato, who said she supports the schools but is worried about paying her taxes on a fixed income. Her taxes went up 29% last year, she said.

“Tell the school board go back to the drawing board,” Sato said.

Resident Ken Curtis, a retired teacher, said he feared rising taxes might force him to leave the town and his home after 52 years.

Jim Means, a former board chairperson at Cheverus High School who called the school committee’s budget request “reckless and irresponsible,” advocated for a favorable balance between public education costs and the interests of the entire town.

As proposed, the $51.5 million school budget, which includes adult education, represented an increase of more than $5 million, or 11%, over this year’s $46.4 million budget, Cobb said on Wednesday.

The school committee, superintendent and district leadership team will discuss what cuts to make at a meeting May 24, school committee Chairperson Darryl Wright said.

Voters will have their say on the school budget at the validation referendum on June 13.

Comments are not available on this story.