With last week’s narrow referendum victory in the rearview mirror, SAD 51 leadership is now focused on getting their $53.5 million school project ready to go out for bid.

Cumberland and North Yarmouth voters approved the the bond by fewer than 50 votes on June 11, giving the district the OK to move forward with its “One Campus School Project” that includes a new pre-K through grade 1 school on the Greely campus, an artificial turf field, new maintenance facility, more classrooms at Mabel I. Wilson School and other enhancements.

“The students will have a much better learning environment,” said School Board Vice Chair Kim Vine, who said that she and other board members were feeling “relief” the morning after the vote. Educators, administrators and voters won’t have to go through another referendum, she added.

According to a timeline document provided by the board, the architectStephen Blatt Architects  has a tentative October 2024 due date to complete project designs and prepare detailed plans and specifications, and secure local and state approvals for those plans. From there, the architect and the district aim to have bidding and construction documents complete by March 2025. SAD 51 hopes to have the project out to bid by April 2025.

But the closeness of the vote is very much on school leadership’s mind.

“The reality is that a little more than half of North Yarmouth and a little less than half of Cumberland is not happy with these results. I just want to acknowledge that and the board acknowledges (that),” Vine said.


The school bond squeaked by with 49 votes, 2,287 to 2,238, out of the total 4,252 cast.

While the total vote count for all of SAD 51 pushed the project over the 50% mark, North Yarmouth residents voted it down 808 to 704. Cumberland residents voted for it, 1,583 to 1,430.

The vote comes nearly two years after voters rejected a $73.9 plan to build a pre-K through Grade 2 school in North Yarmouth. The new school on the Greely campus will house pre-K through Grade 1 students.

Heading into the polls on Election Day before dropping his young daughter off at daycare, Cumberland resident Ryan Bradford said he was going to vote “yes” for the school bond, in part because he’s concerned about overcrowding at the elementary school. SAD 51 now relies on modular classrooms to house all students, at a cost of about $600,000 a year in lease payments, according to administrators.

Bradford also said he liked that the new project – unlike the one that failed a few years ago – would keep kids on the same campus.

Lynn Copp of Cumberland said upon arriving at the polls that she was voting against the school bond because it included the turf field. The field came to dominate the public discussion around the school project, and a number of voters said it would cause them to reject the bond.


“It’s a big ‘no,’” Copp said. “We need (a) school, but we need to spend our money in other places. We don’t need to be spending so much money on a turf field. We need to spend it on educators,” she said.

Others, like the Cumberland/North Yarmouth Taxpayer Advisory Group, said that the overall property tax increase resulting from the project would be “beyond affordability” for too many residents.

According to the school board, the bond will cause a gradual increase to the tax rate beginning in 2026. The project will add cents to the tax rate in North Yarmouth and Cumberland through 2030, after which point the project’s impact on taxes will decline. In 2026, the estimated tax rate effect will be $27 and $25 per $100,000 of assessed value for Cumberland and North Yarmouth, respectively, according to school officials.

School board election


Voters last week chose Sean Thurston, Jesse Lamarre-Vincent and Sara Rose to join the SAD 51 School Board.

In Cumberland, Thurston and Lamarre-Vincent, who ran in a four-way race, secured 1,284 and 1,321 votes, respectively. Both candidates said on the campaign trail that they are supportive of the One Campus School Project.


“I am very grateful for the opportunity to serve our community and the school system in this new role.  I am looking forward to digging into all the details, and working together on our common goal, of providing the best education for our young community members,” said Thurston, in an email after the race.

The candidates will replace departing school board members Denny Gallaudet and Ann Maksymowicz.

Sara Rose beat out Suzannah Dowling for a single three-year seat on the school board representing North Yarmouth. Sara Rose earned 848 votes to Dowling’s 574. Rose told the Northern Forecaster in May that she was not supportive of the school bond.


Rose will replace outgoing school board member Tom McGuinness.

“I am humbled and incredibly grateful for the faith the residents have placed in me. As I work to create a bridge, I ask the residents to share their perspectives in person at meetings, via email or phone calls,” Rose said in an emailed statement.

School budget


Voters in Cumberland and North Yarmouth also approved the $50.25 million SAD 51 budget for the coming year. The budget is up $6.8%, or $3.2 million over this year, 81% of spending earmarked for salaries and benefits.

The budget passed 881 to 630 in North Yarmouth and 1,899 to 1,094 in Cumberland.

To help cover the $50.25 million, $24.8 million will be raised through taxation in Cumberland, and $9.5 will be raised through taxation in North Yarmouth. The rest will be covered by $15.83 million in state subsidies and other revenue.


Cumberland Town Council has signed off on a municipal budget that totals $14.67 million in expenses and $8.64 million in revenues for fiscal year 2025, according to Town Manager Matthew Sturgis.

The net amount to be raised through taxation in Cumberland – including school and county taxes – is $35.81 million, he added.

Sturgis did not provide a projected mil rate, which he said would be set at the July 22 Town Council meeting.

In North Yarmouth, residents signed off on a budget totaling $4.95 million at their recent annual town meeting for fiscal year 2025, a 6.6% or $309,465.00 increase from the year prior. $2.39 million will be raised through taxation, $650,000 will come from revenue sharing and $1,913,857 will come from other revenue. Cumberland County will levy $490,577.00 in taxes on residents in North Yarmouth.

With the tax rate projected to be $20.07 per $1,000 of assessed value, the owner of a home assessed at the median North Yarmouth assessed value of $346,600 can expect to pay $6,956 in taxes. The tax rate is subject to change, said North Yarmouth Town Manager Diane Barnes.

This story was updated June 18. 

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