Gorham resident Rick Dorr, left, signs Ben Tuttle’s petition last week calling for a recount in the school budget validation vote. Robert Lowell / American Journal

A recount of Gorham’s $53.4 million school budget validation referendum is set for next week after it was approved June 11 by just four votes.

The Gorham Republican Committee, armed with 260 signatures, 160 more than legally required, filed a recount request Monday with Town Clerk Laurie Nordfors.

Gorham Republican Committee Chair Suzanne Roberge, left, gathers signatures June 15 seeking a school budget recount. Pictured, from left, are Judith Falk and James and Kellie Welch. Robert Lowell / American Journal

Committee Chair Suzanne Roberge, who spearheaded the petition drive, is optimistic the results can be overturned.

“The majority of us think there could be a machine error,” Roberge said Monday.

The recount will begin at 10 a.m. Wednesday in Town Council chambers at the municipal center and will be open to the public, Nordfors said

The budget was approved 1,827 to 1,823 with 18 blank ballots cast.


“We’re going to hone in on the blanks,” Roberge said about the recount.

Nordfors said 3,668 ballots were cast in the June 11 school budget referendum out of the town’s 15,820 registered voters. Voter turnout was 23%, high compared to the June 11 turnout of 11% in Buxton and 10.8% in Westbrook.

Resident Ben Tuttle, who helped collect petition signatures, said Wednesday that people are “often quick to criticize” the political system but don’t take the time to vote.

“I also believe that the timing of such school budget votes (summertime) is suspect as many are away, school is out and not top of mind. Perhaps the fall would increase the voter turnout,” Tuttle said.

Under the approved budget, the school share of the town’s tax rate rose from $8.79 per $1,000 of a property’s assessed valuation to $9.59, representing an 80-cent increase or 9% jump. Taxes to support education for the owner of a home assessed at $400,000, for example, would rise $320 from $3,516 to $3,836.

Town Council Chair Suzanne Phillips said Nordfors will handle the recount and the council will not get involved “unless the results of the validation change.”


The school department has no involvement in the recount process, according to Superintendent Heather Perry.

“However, we will be well represented by our municipal partners to make sure the process is strong and the outcomes are correct,” she said.

If the budget is overturned, Perry said, “We will follow the required processes to have a second referendum vote.”

Under that scenario, a new budget would need to be approved by the School Committee and the Town Council, which has authority to cut it before being sent back to voters within 45 days of the June 11 vote.

Last year, voters rejected the school budget and two additional referendums were needed to pass a school spending plan that came in August.

Roberge said the town did not impose a fee for the recount because of the narrow vote margin. Nordfors said the only costs would be to pay 13 election workers.

The town doesn’t appear to have recount rules in its charter and follows state statute that requires 100 signatures.

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