Parents and students demonstrate in Gorham Village Monday in support of the School Committee’s call to reject the budget referendum. Pictured, from left, are sixth grader Charlie Littlefield, Tristan Littlefield, Esther Booth, Michelle Littlefield and fifth grader Nora Littlefield. Robert Lowell / American Journal

Voters in Gorham for the second time in two months voted down the school budget, this time seemingly because the $48.2 million proposal was too low.

The budget, up from $46.4 million last year, failed overwhelmingly, 2,742 to 1,043 with a 24% turnout of 15,567 voters. A $51.5 million budget precursor failed at the polls in June with 10.4% of Gorham voters casting ballots.

A third vote on a school budget is expected next month.

The School Committee advocated a “no” vote on Tuesday because they deemed a $48.2 million budget to be insufficient with too dire of an impact, including the elimination of 19 school jobs and multiple cuts in programs and extra-curricular activities, including sports. Rejecting the budget would allow the committee and council to compromise on a better solution, the committee said.

Voters wait to cast their ballots on the school budget Tuesday at the Ward 2 polls at Shaw Gym. Voter turnout for the referendum was 24%. Robert Lowell / American Journal

“We are thankful for the outcome and the outpouring of support from community members who not only voted, but who also emailed and wrote letters to Town Council members to make sure elected officials knew why they voted the way they did,” Superintendent Heather Perry and the School Committee said in a statement released Tuesday night.

The budget issue will now make its way back to the Town Council.


“Let’s hope we can work together and pass a budget that benefits the town,” Vice Chairperson Ronald Shepard said Wednesday. Shepard will be the acting council chairperson in dealing with the school budget; Chairperson Lee Pratt has recused himself from the issue because his wife works for the School Department.

“I feel confident we can figure out a path forward,” Councilor Seven Siegel said at the polls Tuesday.

The School Committee planned to meet Wednesday, after the American Journal’s deadline, to craft another budget to present to the council. The committee likely will approve a new proposal Wednesday, Aug. 2, according to the committee, with hopes the Town Council would act by Aug. 8 to set a referendum for Aug. 15.

A “Vote yes” sign posted on a fence on South Street. Robert Lowell / American Journal

The “no” vote Tuesday prevailed in the three voting wards and in absentee balloting.

Jessica Gleason, a parent of two, said after voting at Ward 1-1, “I feel we need to protect the future, the children are our future.”

Parent Michelle Littlefield, who actively campaigned for a “no” vote and placed signs around the village, said after the polls closed, “I’m proud of this town for showing up for our kids.”

In April, the School Committee sought a $52.2 million budget, but the Town Council trimmed it by $800,000 in May before sending the $51.5 million plan to voters. When that failed at the polls June 13, the the School Committee submitted a $50.2 million alternate plan, which included the correction of a $849,000 accounting error in the district’s favor. The council July 11 ordered that budget to be cut by $2 million, saying voters had spoken in June.

Until a budget for the new school year is approved by voters, the School Department must operate under the latest budget approved by the Town Council, in this case the $48.2 million plan.

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