Gorham residents by a vote of 956-660 Tuesday rejected the $51.5 million school budget that would have resulted in a property tax increase of 11%.

Superintendent Heather Perry, in a lengthy statement sent to the American Journal Wednesday, said the School Committee already is working with the Town Council to determine the next steps. The town must hold another vote on the school budget within 45 days.

“This vote continues very important conversations that our community needs to have as we seek to find balance between meeting the costs needed to support the education of our community’s children while also meeting the overall needs of our community’s taxpayers,” Perry said.

She said she expects to have an update for residents on her blog Friday, and the School Committee will have a special meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 20, at her office.

The School Committee’s work on a new budget will be conducted without Chairperson Darryl Wright, who previously announced he would resign from the board Thursday because he is moving out of Gorham.

Wright on Wednesday defended the plan that was sent to voters.


“We brought a budget that we thought was appropriate,” Wright said.

The proposed budget was defeated in all of the town’s three voting wards and in absentee voting. Town Clerk Laurie Nordfors reported 1,617 ballots were cast of 15,623 registered voters, representing a 10.35% turnout.

“The people have spoken and we have to come back and weigh what our options are,” Town Councilor Phil Gagnon said Tuesday shortly after votes were counted.

The defeated $51.5 million school budget was up $5 million, or 11%, over this year’s $46.4 million budget. The School Committee initially proposed a $52.2 million budget but the Town Council ordered it be cut by $800,000.

Under the budget, the portion of the town’s tax rate to support education would have risen from $8.06 per $1,000 of assessed value to $9.37, an increase of $1.31. Property taxes on a home assessed at $400,000 would have gone up $524, from $3,224 to $3,748. The municipal side of the budget is expected to add another 5 cents to the tax rate.

“We can’t sustain these numbers, budgets going forward,” Town Councilor Suzanne Phillips said earlier this month as the council voted unanimously to seek a date for a joint workshop with the School Committee to discuss the next year’s budget process.


The school budget increased $2.1 million a year ago, representing a 4.7% increase after the Town Council cut it $1.6 million.

With Wright departing, the School Committee’s vice chairperson, Sarah Perkins, will step up as chairperson until June 28, when the board will reorganize. Wright’s vacant seat will be filled in the November election.

Meanwhile, with the budget rejected, the School Department needs to pay its bills.

“Maine statute requires that in the event of a failed school budget referendum, the schools will operate based upon the budget passed by the Town Council on May 16, 2023, until such a time as a new referendum is held,” Perry said.

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