The Gorham Town Council next week will hold a public hearing on a revised school budget, the third after two failed validation referendums.

The School Committee was scheduled to meet Wednesday night, after the American Journal’s deadline, to work on a budget to present to the Town Council before the council meeting Tuesday, Aug.8. Following the public hearing, the council will vote on a budget amount – either as proposed by the School Committee or as amended by the council – to put on the Aug. 15 ballot.

Voters June 13 rejected a $51.5 million school spending plan in a 10.4% turnout of registered voters. The School Committee came back with a $50.2 million plan, but the council ordered $2 million lopped off that. The $48.2 million proposal failed with a 24% turnout on July 25.

With no voter-approved budget, schools are required to operate under the most recent budget approved by the Town Council. To comply with the $48.2 million budget until the council approves another one, the School Committee last week cut programs and 20 staff positions, including those of Assistant Superintendent Brian Porter, $165,020 in salary and benefits; Bei Ju, high school Mandarin teacher, $54,895 salary/benefits; Brianne Corey, high school health teacher, $95,000; Emma Ambrose, middle school guidance counselor, unreported; and Debra Leone, part-time K-5 guidance counselor, $49,000.

“Our hope is that a third proposed budget can be approved by Aug. 15 and that these positions can be reinstated at that time,” Superintendent Heather Perry said Monday in an email to the American Journal.

School officials campaigned for a ‘no’ vote on the second budget because they considered it too low, resulting in staff reduction, cuts to extracurricular programs and the necessity for pay-to-play athletic programs at the high school.


Resident Jim Means said in an email to the American Journal that school officials “unleashed a firestorm of scare tactics.”

A parent, Sarah Plummer, told the Town Council this week that children are scared and confused. Some parents, she said, are contemplating pulling their children out of Gorham schools.

Meanwhile, referendums are costing taxpayers money.

Town Clerk Laurie Nordfors said before Tuesday’s Town Council meeting that the June 13 referendum cost $8,623.16 and the July 25 referendum $12,504.91 because more ballots were ordered. Nordfors said the referendum expenses do not include overtime pay for personnel in her office.

Town Manager Ephrem Paraschak thanked poll workers. “Hopefully, this is the last one for a little while,” Paraschak said.

School Committee Chairperson Sarah Perkins said in her report to the Town Council that her committee is committed to improving the budget process and collaboration with the council “to provide the best possible education to the children of Gorham while keeping taxes as low as possible for residents and business owners alike.”

Perkins favored a joint workshop with the Town Council in December to discuss a budget target for next year and also establishing a community advisory committee to develop a report outlining “large-scale fiscal needs” through the next decade and how to meet the challenges.

School starts in Gorham Aug. 28 for grades 6, 9 and pre-K; Aug. 29, grades 1-5, 7, 8, 10, 11 and 12; and Sept. 5, kindergarten.

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