Auburn is rarely considered in the same breath with Whitneyville, Northfield, Marshfield and East Machias.
But those communities have something in common with Auburn: They all spent less than $8,000 per pupil to educate their children in 2012-2013.
Of the 231 school districts in Maine, only 14 spent less per pupil than Auburn. Ten of those are tiny towns located in Maine's three poorest counties, Washington, Piscataquis and Aroostook counties. Four others are in Penobscot County.
There are no communities in central or southern Maine that spent less per pupil to educate their children than Auburn.
While not wealthy, Auburn has a per capita income of nearly $20,000, compared to Whitneyville ($13,115), Marshfield ($15,969) and East Machias ($13,254).
Critics have pointed to the size of the increase on Tuesday's ballot, 6.9 percent, and it is large.
But when you look at other communities in Maine, they are simply providing relatively more money to educate their children, often much more.
Auburn voters are likely to face a series of increases over the next several years because of a law recently passed by the Legislature without opposition and signed by Gov. Paul LePage.
That law requires all of the state's school districts to spend what the state calculates is the amount necessary to cover "Essential Programs and Services" for its students.
The EPS was introduced in 2004, and Maine districts have been working toward meeting this minimum ever since. Auburn, unfortunately, has fallen behind.
As the accompanying chart shows, both Lewiston and Auburn were a considerable distance from that goal in 2012-2013. Lewiston voters recently approved a school budget that will move their schools much closer to the EPS target.
Even so, in 2012-2013, Lewiston was spending about 10 percent more per student than Auburn.
Opponents of the tax increase will argue that Auburn is not a wealthy community and that its residents cannot afford to pay more for schools.
But, when looking at statewide data, it becomes clear that there are many districts with lower per capita incomes that are not only spending more per pupil but have already reached their EPS goal.
For instance, in 2012-13, Lewiston was providing about 10 percent more per student toward EPS while it showed $2,037 less in per capita income.
Biddeford, with significantly less per capita income, is spending nearly $1,500 more per pupil per year.
Among the eight larger cities we surveyed, Auburn spent the least.
You will hear opponents say the Auburn schools received an increase from the state for its 2013-2014 budget.
That's true, but the district is so far behind that more is necessary.
Critics will argue that Auburn has several failing schools and middling test results, so why support higher taxes?
Does anyone really believe that spending even less on our schools will improve those results? If we are spending less than what the state thinks is "essential," could that be part of the reason we are seeing poor results?
Critics will also talk about slush funds, fund balances and other mysterious ways that Auburn could close this gap.
This, we believe, is nonsense. Reducing a carryover balance will not move the district toward the EPS minimum.
Critics will say that the state should step up and fund 55 percent of local educational expense as required under law, rather than the 45 percent the state is budgeted to provide.
But the state is wrestling at the moment with an $800 million deficit, and an increase in school funding is off the table for the foreseeable future.
Some will say that's unfair and hypocritical — how can the state demand Auburn come up with the money when the state hasn't done the same.
That is unfair, but the bottom line remains: 80 percent of the communities in the state have already met the goal, some of them poorer and more hard-pressed than Auburn. Many of the remaining 20 percent are already much closer to the goal than Auburn.
As we mentioned, only 13 other Maine communities — all tiny and rural — are spending less per pupil than Auburn.
Citizens will have an opportunity to stand up their schools and children Tuesday.
The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.