The Gorham School Committee is urging voters to reject the $48.2 million school budget proposal next week, a gamble in hopes of reaching a compromise with the Town Council.

A compromise would result in less drastic impacts to Gorham schools, the School Committee says. If the budget fails at the polls July 25, however, a compromise is not guaranteed. A rejection would put the committee at risk of another Town Council mandated reduction, on top of the $2 million cut ordered July 11 after voters rejected a $51.5 million school budget in June.

“The School Committee urges the voters of Gorham to vote ‘no’ on the July 25, 2023, budget referendum because it is too low. We further urge voters to contact members of the Town Council to inform them why they voted ‘no.’ A ‘no’ vote will allow the School Committee to rework a third budget to present to the Town Council,” the committee said in a statement that it unanimously approved Tuesday.


“To meet the budget reductions required by the Town Council, the School Committee reluctantly removed items, programs and positions that directly and negatively impacted all aspects of the student experience,” the statement says.

The budget reductions impact all five of the district’s schools and eliminate 19 positions. The high school, for example, would shift to a pay-to-play athletic program. Band and chorus concerts, theater programs and the Civil Rights team would be eliminated, according to Perry.

“If the budget cuts made Tuesday night (July 11) go into effect, there will be serious and significant consequences for students,” high school Principal Brian Jandreau wrote in a lengthy letter to the community July 12.


Under the new proposal, the schools’ portion of the tax rate rises from $8.06 last year to $8.36, a 3.67% increase. Taxes to support education on a home valued at $400,000 would rise from $3,224 to $3,344, up $120 or 3.72%.

The School Committee initially sought a $52.2 million budget. The Town Council ordered it reduced by $800,000 in May, and voters shot that budget down 956-660 in a low turnout. On July 11, the council, saying that the voters had spoken, ordered the $2 million reduction. The School Committee immediately convened to draft potential budget reductions and four hours later, Superintendent Heather Perry released a long list of proposed programs, activities and personnel cuts, including eliminating the $145,000 assistant superintendent’s position.

“I am deeply saddened by the substantial cuts that became necessary after the Town Council voted to further reduce the proposed FY24 School Budget,” Assistant Superintendent Brian Porter told the American Journal last week. “This budget does not support or reflect the values of the Gorham Schools that I have been honored to serve for the past 25 years.”

School budgeting woes were complicated with an $849,000 salary accounting error discovered after the first referendum.

School Business Manager Hollis Cobb said in a letter she was responsible for the error, “mistakenly (entering) the FY25 salary scale into the FY24 proposed budget.”

Resident Jim Means, in a July 14 email to the American Journal, said Perry “should be fired” because of the error.


“She declared war against (the) council and taxpayers,” Means wrote. “She and the School Committee threw Cobb under the bus, despite declaring that every line item of budget, which was developed from a zero base line, was closely evaluated. We now all know that this is a blatant lie.”

Meanwhile, senior residents are concerned about the school budget’s impact on their property taxes.

Priscilla Wheatley wrote in a letter to the editor of the American Journal that homeowners’ pockets are not a “bottomless” source of money.

“New property assessments led to substantial increases in taxes for many homeowners, in my case 28%. Adding several hundred dollars more in school taxes is hard to swallow, especially when you are retired,” she said.

David Alexander, spokesman for the Lakes Region Senior Center, said Gorham seniors were especially hit hard by last year’s revaluation.

“Our home values hadn’t been updated since 2008; the average increase was 73% and tax increase around $1,000,” he said.

“Still,” he said, “this latest $2 million cut went too far, in my opinion. Wiping out high school extracurricular activities would be a shame.”

He said he’ll vote “no” on the budget next week with the hope that the Town Council and School Committee can work out a compromise.

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