On Tuesday, the Gorham Town Council sent a $48.2 million school budget to referendum on July 25. Pictured, from left, are Councilor Virginia Wilder Cross, Town Manager Ephrem Paraschak, Council Vice Chairperson Ronald Shepard, Town Clerk Laurie Nordfors and Councilors Suzanne Phillips, Rob Lavoie and Phil Gagnon. Robert Lowell / American Journal

The Gorham Town Council Tuesday slashed $2 million from a proposed $50.2 million school budget, putting existing positions, including the assistant superintendent, in jeopardy.

The council voted 5-0 on the cut with Councilor Seven Siegel absent and Chairperson Lee Pratt recused because his wife works for the school department.

Among the proposed reductions, the school committee late Tuesday earmarked axing the job of Assistant Superintendent Brian Porter and 12 other existing staff members along with opting for a pay-to-play athletic program at the high school. Porter did not respond to a request for comment.

While the school committee has identified possible job eliminations, it hasn’t voted on specific contract terminations yet, according to Superintendent Heather Perry, who will meet with association presidents in the next week or two to discuss job losses.

The new proposed budget replaces one voters rejected last month.

Residents on Tuesday, July 25, will vote on the new $48.2 million budget, up 3.9%, or $1.8 million, from last fiscal year’s which ended June 30. If the referendum fails, the school department will operate from the Town Council school budget passed Tuesday until the council approves a new one.


The town’s estimate of the impact on the tax rate was not available before the American Journal’s print deadline on Wednesday.

Voters on June 13 shot down 956 to 660 a $51.5 million school spending plan with 10.35% of registered voters casting ballots.

“People have spoken, we need to listen,” Town Councilor Rob Lavoie said Tuesday

Brian Porter File photo / American Journal

Perry Wednesday said the reduction represents 19 total positions lost, plus coaches and advisors for all clubs and “after-school extra and co-curricular programs.”

Perry said the council-mandated reduction negatively impacts children.

“I urge the voters of Gorham, all the voters of Gorham, to come to the polls on July 25 to communicate to our community’s leaders that this level of reduction to our children’s education went too far and is not supported by our community,” Perry said in a statement to the American Journal.


Perry also said the school committee will meet next week to consider a resolution opposing the Town Council’s action.

The Town Council in May cut $800,000 from the school’s then-proposed $52.2 million budget before it went to referendum. This week’s $2 million cut was in addition to a school committee removal last week of a $849,000 salary accounting error discovered in the budget that went to referendum June 13. “This was my mistake,” Hollis Cobb, school business manager, told the council Tuesday.

“Saying you’re sorry doesn’t cut it for me,” Councilor Phil Gagnon said. “I’m sorry it happened to you, Hollis, you’re a good person.”

Councilor Suzanne Phillips said, “I was upset by the error.”

Town Council Vice Chairperson Ronald Shepard didn’t view the discovery of the error as a reduction and Councilor Virginia Wilder Cross agreed saying, “I’m disappointed.”

Jim Means, a resident since 1995, called the error “egregious and fiscally irresponsible, clearly demonstrating the complete lack of scrutiny and oversight of the budget by the school department.”


Lavoie said the council needed to come up with a referendum budget number that helps the taxpayers. Means said voters will have “the final say” at the polls.

Resident Ken Curtis, a retired teacher, has lived on South Street for 52 years and fears taxes might drive him out of town. “There may be an exodus of people because they can’t afford taxes,” Curtis said.

But Sarah Plummer, a parent of two children in Gorham schools, said the school district can’t negate more. “We can’t cut anything else. Think about our children,” Plummer urged the Town Council.

The Town Council can’t dictate what to pare from the budget. Tuesday’s school-committee-proposed reductions include supplies, $100,000; Narragansett School K-5 teacher, $95,000; high school technology teacher, $120,000; 504 coordinator, $90,000; part-time K-5 teaching counselor, $47,500; reduced middle school athletics, $50,000; high school club stipends, $88,000; athletic administrative assistant, $45,000; high school athletics, $100,000; part-time administrative facilities assistant, $45,000; high school assistant secretary, $45,000; one administrative assistant/secretary at each K-5 school, $67,500; middle school functional life skills teacher, $95,000; health teacher, $95,000; five K-5 classroom teachers, $280,000; and assistant superintendent, $145,00.

A disappointed Perry said the school committee did their job to identify the cuts associated with an overall cut of almost $3 million from the originally proposed budget. “These cuts do not allow us to provide adequate programming for our students whose needs have increased significantly since the pandemic,” Perry said. “These reductions will result in larger class sizes, more students in study halls, and virtually no opportunities for our students to participate in outside learning opportunities through after-school clubs and other performing arts or athletic-related events that had to be reduced to meet the reductions made by the Town Council.”

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