At an in-person budget meeting last Thursday, 158 voters from Maine School Administrative District 75’s four towns granted preliminary approval for next year’s $52.8 million budget— a 6.5% increase from 2023.

The budget initially approved by the School Board at a meeting on April 13 will cover the coming fiscal year, from July 1 through June 30, 2024, requiring the district’s residents of Bowdoin, Bowdoinham, Harpswell and Topsham to fund more than half the budget —$30.4 million.

The budget has increased by $3.2 million compared to last year, and taxpayers will feel the weight of it.

A home in Harpswell assessed at $540,900 could see a $181 tax bill increase. Taxes on a Topsham home valued at $301,764 could increase by $282. Taxes on a $200,000 home in Bowdoinham could increase by $348. Bowdoin voters could see the largest increase, with a $428 tax bump on a home assessed at $245,736.

Nina Mendall of Bowdoinham said she was “distressed” by the amount the town would pay towards the new school budget but said, “It is necessary.”

Mendall was not the only one concerned. School Board member Eric Lusk and voters Tyler Washburn and Allen Sarvinas vocalized their opposition to articles on the warrant at the meeting.


Washburn, of Harpswell, suggested adjustments to the budget by shaving off $506,681.58 from Article 2 — the $16,889,386 proposed budget that includes increased salary and benefits for teachers. He suggested a 1% decrease to Article 5 — an $864,022 budget for co-curricular and extracurricular activities. In addition, Washburn suggested a decrease of 5% to Article 7 that would authorize the board of directors to expend $1,664,010 million for costs associated with central administration, including the Office of the Superintendent, business services and human resources. And finally, he suggested a 5% decrease to Article 8, which authorizes the board to expend $2,297,455 for school administration costs associated with principals, administrative assistance and their offices.

“This is the largest budget in the district’s history,” Washburn said.

His suggested amendments did not pass despite some support from fellow voters.

Nearly all of the voters present supported the proposed $52.8 million school budget.

State Rep. Sally Cluchey, D-Bowdoinham, said she respected the School Board and Finance Committee for prioritizing negotiations with staff. She said two years ago, the board built in an 8% increase for teachers every year to stay competitive and not lose staff to neighboring districts. She said the School Board has also negotiated better pay for support staff this year.

“I think they did a good job in difficult circumstances,” Cluchey said. “I think if we’re going to have to spend money, spending it on staff and keeping good people here is the way to do it.”

“It was a successful night,” said Hutson Hayward, School Board vice chairperson.

SAD 75 residents will vote on the budget referendum a final time on June 13 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Voting sites include Bowdoin Central School, 1460 Main St.; Bowdoinham Community School, 23 Cemetery Road; Harpswell Community School, 308 Harpswell Islands Road; and Mt. Ararat High School, 68 Eagles Way, Topsham.

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