Voters again reject Auburn school budget

Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Voters line up out the door to register to vote Tuesday afternoon at Auburn Hall for the second school budget vote.

AUBURN — For the second time, Auburn voters rejected the school budget Tuesday, this time by a 3-to-2 ratio.

Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Voters line up out the door to register to vote Tuesday afternoon at Auburn Hall for the second school budget vote.

Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Empty rolls of "I voted today" stickers are an indication of how busy Auburn Hall was Tuesday as residents voted on the school budget for a second time.

Voting has been steady since the polls at Auburn Hall opened at 7 a.m., election workers said.

Unofficial returns showed citizens voting 1,206 to 820 against the $37.67 million budget, Auburn City Clerk Susan Clements-Dallaire said. Voter turnout was about 13 percent.

On June 11, the budget was rejected by a vote of 1,625 to 1,036 vote; that budget was $38.37 million.

Superintendent Katy Grondin said she was disappointed.

"The gap is closing. That's a positive," Grondin said. "The difficulty is not knowing what the nos represent," Grondin said. "There's no clear-cut reasons for the nos."

She said she assumed the rejection means voters want a smaller budget, but some of the no votes could be from those who want more spending. "The challenge for us is there's very little public input at meetings. There's not a lot of communication to School Committee members."

The School Department has not sent voters the message that state law will require Auburn to spend more on education, Grondin said.

The School Committee will meet at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday to discuss where to go from here and to map out the next referendum date, Grondin said.

Taxpayer advocate and former City Councilor Ron Potvin said he was "pleasantly surprised" by the vote.

"After two rejections, the School Committee and City Council have got to get serious," he said. "It's clear citizens are not interested in elaborate increases in spending. There has to be some reality check."

There's no need to increase spending to meet the state law this year, he said. Potvin and others planning to run for School Committee seats intend to push for a budget that has no higher than a 1.7 percent increase, Potvin said.

During the day Tuesday, voter turnout was higher than expected. Some voters interviewed Tuesday supported the budget, others said it was too high.

Retired teacher Timothy Priestly said he usually votes for school budgets, but he voted no on Tuesday.

“They've done a good job of cutting so far," he said. "I'd like to see more cuts, especially on the administrative side; leave the classroom teachers alone.”

Priestly retired from SAD 17 (Oxford Hills) after 31 years of teaching. “I've been hit with a freeze in my retirement. They've done away with the state rent and tax refund. Everything's frozen, but my costs are still going up.”

T.L. Mikesell said he voted no because the budget was too high. He said there are too many “upper-management people; they could have cut some of them. My little house, the taxes are so high already. There comes a point you've got to cut expenses.”

Ditto for Don St. Germain, who said that even though the budget was cut from the June 11 referendum, “they should still chop it some more. We're paying enough for taxes for what we're getting.”

Retiree Alfreda Fournier voted for the budget, showing up at the polls in a black and orange Harley-Davidson motorcycle suit. Just back from Pennsylvania, she cut her vacation short to vote.

“We need quality education. They've worked on it long enough,” Fournier said. “If the City Council is OK with it, I should be OK with it, too.”

Susan Robinson voted yes for the second time. “We need to support the schools. They have to get how much they spend per pupil up with other districts.”

bwashuk@sunjournal.com

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Comments

Jodi Wolverton's picture

Superintendent seems so out of touch...

Mike, I completely agree with you. This superintendent seems ridiculously out of touch. For her to say that she has no idea what the no votes want indicates she is not only not listening/reading input from the voters but that she really doesn't care to hear their input. I am not even an Auburn voter so I am not following this as closely as she should be and yet even I can tell her what the voters want. Based on what I have read on this rejection as well as the first one they want more cuts, particularly to administration. The fact that your superintendent doesn't understand that after months of battling over this should be extremely concerning to the school community. Auburn may be in need of new leadership in order to move forward. Her quote that some of the no votes may mean they want more spending is so ludicrous it seems impossible she would be crazy enough to actually say it.

All I can say is I am happy to be a Lewiston taxpayer!

Bob White's picture

Nobody ever said a teacher

Nobody ever said a teacher couldn't work during their summer vacation. With that income that would make for a pretty good living.

Evan Cyr's picture

Who would hire?

Who would spend the money to train and hire someone that can only work full time for nine weeks? Even if it was part time, what business owner or manager would commit to hiring an employee that will be gone in two months? I wouldn't.

More spending??

I don't think Grondin is in touch with reality. Maybe if she read some comments she may have a better idea about where people are coming from. I don't believe for one minute that some of the no votes are from people that want more spending. Maybe cut some of the management from this budget and it may pass, but this is typical of most companies...TOP HEAVY!!! Stop making cuts to teachers that actually work with the kids and programs that could benefit the kids, and get rid of the management that hasn't got a thing to do with hands on. This is not the only school budget that is having a hard time to pass, so wake up and smell the coffee... I can't for the life of me understand why it is so difficult for them to understand that people have had enough of taxes going up along with everything else...oh ya... I forgot that they get paid so much more than regular people and have a hard time understanding how the rest of us live...enough with the spending already!!!

Mike Lachance's picture

In a nutshell.

Agreed!

Kelsie Chamberlain's picture

Payroll

Seems to me at next bargaining meeting with the union, they should work to have employees pay more of their fair share of insurance, remove paid sick days, and have a few less holidays off paid. Then when their world meets my world I would be more inclined to vote yes.

Evan Cyr's picture

For clarification...

Teachers don't get paid holidays and a teacher in Auburn with a family will pay just shy of $5,000 a year for insurance with a large deductible and no eye or dental coverage.

Kelsie Chamberlain's picture

For clarification

Good, and the ones with no family, also no holidays, hmm...annual salaries, not hourly so they are included, plus what 6 to 8 weeks vacation if not more. You should really be in line with what every one else is going thru. I am not down on teachers, just city/gov. employment in general. Municipal and gov. is to free with the bennies, to include over abundant retirement plans vs. private business. So I get just a little tired of all that I do, just to maintain a job, and how little gov. employees have to do for what they get. I am far from alone on this. City, state and federal government needs to be held to the same standard that private businesses face, and not rely so much on TAX DOLLARS!.

Evan Cyr's picture

Good and bad...

Salary is good and bad. I suppose you could look at it like a teacher gets paid during time off, or conversely you could say that teachers are salaried so don't get paid when they are working before school, after school and on the weekends. You seem upset with the benefits structure for educators. What exactly upsets you? And as far as tax dollars... I'm not sure how one would fund public education without public tax dollars. I suppose we could close public schools and require that each pupil pay to attend a private school.

Kelsie Chamberlain's picture

Good And Bad

We know tax dollars pay for public schools. What I am saying is that government employees pay and benefits exceed the private sector. Here in Maine we have a little more than a million folks, yet we seem to have the need to have pay follow national average, well sorry we can not afford that. The unions, all around push for to much and for life long benefits. It is no longer possible to support such a way of life. Look at Auto MFG., it cost them dearly and still does. We should not be expecting grand kids to pay for the future retirement of people to the extreme. Put retirement funds in 401k's and such. I have not seen a raise in 3 years, but at least I still have a job. Also, it is not just educators, it is in general all government employee's and elected officials.Thank you

Evan Cyr's picture

You are aware..

I am sure that you are aware that teachers don't actually get the same level of benefits as other members of the Maine State Retirement System.

Kelsie Chamberlain's picture

Payroll

Seems to me at next bargaining meeting with the union, they should work to have employees pay more of their fair share of insurance, remove paid sick days, and have a few less holidays off paid. Then when their world meets my world I would be more inclined to vote yes.

CLAIRE GAMACHE's picture

Magical thinking

If the folks in Auburn don't want to pay for schools they shouldn't have them. It is probably time to shut down a couple of schools and to make all extra-curricular activities pay as you play. Realtors take note. When somebody is looking to buy a house or start a business in Auburn you have a duty to point this out to them. And to point out the lovely new schools we have in Lewiston. There is no such thing as magic chalk that makes quality education cheap only flim-flam that makes you think you can have the same quality with magic spending cuts.

Bob White's picture

Its not the buildings that

Its not the buildings that does the teaching. We are in a day that we demand more out of people so we need to get more for less. I have said it in the pass we need to look into these schools and make them as efficient as they can be from top to bottom. When you have people out their that think they should design a building without starting with a budget that tells me there is plenty en- efficiencies to be found.

Jason Theriault's picture

Disagree all you want

Auburn is at the bottom of spending per pupil for school.

http://www.maine.gov/education/data/ppcosts/2010/PPOCTotalHightoLow.pdf

Hate to have to bust out math on you, but the difference between where Potvin want it to be and the last proposal is almost a million dollars.
You'r not going to save that cutting iPads or a few administrative positions. You're gonna have to cleave off alot of stuff, like sports.
And maybe a school.

Mike Lachance's picture

Ya, more spending thats it...

If Grondin truly believes the "no" voters rejected the budget because they want *more* spending I do believe Auburn voters should also consider rejecting *her*.

It might be time to take a closer look at contracts and administration positions. Cutting sports is so worn out it no longer scares but angers.

Good luck Auburn.... third time's a charm?

Robert McQueeney's picture

Throwing money at a problem seldom solves the problem.

I think the taxpayers are saying enough. If you want better schools, do so without just throwing money at them. Eliminate administrative overhead, it is the teachers who directly interact with the students. The well has been running dry for quite a while now. Start doing like regular people do, stop spending so much money, economize.

Jason Theriault's picture

lol

The administrative costs are already below most of the state.

Nope, what they need to do is close East Auburn school. Of course, scores will drop across the elementary schools are more kids are stuffed into classrooms, but the voters of Auburn have spoken.

David Marsters's picture

Vote on school budget

What is Ms Grondin smoking, she states maybe a "no" vote means they want more money for the schools. She should go back to school and learn what NO means. Cut all asst principals and asst superintendent.

Jason Theriault's picture

Bummer

I'm disappointed. I mean, the state's funding guidelines show we are underfunding our schools. We spend less per pupil that most municipalities in the state.

What really worries me is that when we have to meet state funding guidelines under EPS and we don't, our schools are going to get gutted. Don't they lose $3 of state funding for ever dollar they are underfunded?

I have no faith in the voters of Auburn realizing this, and the kids are going to suffer for it.

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