The Gorham Town Council approved a $77.4 million combined school and municipal budget on Tuesday.

The seven-member board OK’d the School Committee’s $53.4 million spending plan as presented 6-0, with Councilor Lee Pratt recused because his wife is a school employee. The school budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 increased $3.5 million, up 6.97% over the one current one.

Town Council Chair Suzanne Phillips thanked school officials for their work but is not happy with the increase. “But let the voters decide,” she said.

The town voters will weigh in with a school budget validation referendum set for June 11. Last year, voters shot down two referendums before finally passing one.

The municipal $23.9 million budget passed 6-1 with Councilor Lou Simms opposed. It includes $22.4 million, up from $20.3 million, a 10.3% increase, to operate the town and a $1.6 million Cumberland County tax assessed Gorham.

The vote came after a lengthy debate over installing lights at the Little Falls Recreation Field where the Little League plays. The Town Council last year approved and earmarked $265,000 to light the field using American Rescue Plan Act funds.


The expectation then was electricity infrastructure was there to support it, Town Councilor Phil Gagnon said after Tuesday’s meeting. “But, it’s not,” Gagnon said.

The project will require bringing in industrial type electrical service to the field and the town since last year learned the parking lot also needed to be lighted and $300,000 more was budgeted.

Pratt said he wanted the infrastructure installed and lights put in if there’s money left over. Councilor Rob Lavoie agreed, saying the money is budgeted and favored getting the infrastructure in.

Resident Kelli Deveaux said the money could have bolstered the school budget and pointed out a dog park that was removed from the budget. Deveaux advocated using the federal money wisely, and in a reference to lighting the field said it’s not the time for “pet projects.”

Nicole Hudson, a former School Committee member, spoke in support of the lights and Little League President Greg Norton advocated for lights to increase field use. The town is “bursting at the seams” for available fields, Norton said.

A member of the Little League board, Joel Shaw, said the decisions were made months ago and the kids were
promised lights and urged councilors to do what’s right.


Councilor Seven Siegel said the town has more important projects than lighting a field, but the money remained in the budget.

The council approved Siegel’s move to add to the budget a former part-time position at Baxter Memorial Library costing $21,844.90.

Gorham Finance Director Sharon Laflamme could not be reached Wednesday by the American Journal deadline for the estimated tax rate.

In information available before Tuesday’s meeting, the portion of the tax rate to support the municipal spending would remain flat from the current year at $3.31 per thousand dollars of a property’s valuation. The portion of the tax rate to support local education rises from $8.79 to $9.59 per thousand dollars of valuation, representing a 9.05% tax increase.

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