Education top concern at Auburn's first Community Conversation

AUBURN — Education arose as one of the most important issues for Auburn residents at a community discussion Tuesday night, both as the right thing to do for students and as a way to encourage economic growth.

"I would like to see Auburn be an education center of excellence to attract people to Auburn," Fern Street resident Bob Armstrong said. "There's a demographic shift going on and as it does, the challenge for us is to attract more young people and to keep the ones we have. To keep our city growing and rolling along, as more than just a place where old people retire, you have to have a Class A, No. 1 educational system."

The problem, according to City Councilor Leroy Walker, is paying for it.

"I think everyone wants education to be No. 1, but we just can't afford the education they're trying to sell us," Walker said. "It's why people voted against taxes this year. It wasn't that people don't want a good education. They just can't afford it."

Moderator Mary Sylvester said that was one of the biggest dilemmas identified by residents Tuesday at the first of seven community conversations over the next few weeks. Residents didn't have to solve that question, but they ought to discuss it and reach consensus, she said.

"This is a missing piece here we need to notice," Sylvester said. "How do we do that? We build more people into the community dialog."

Local business owner Jim Wellehan said he'd rather see money spent on education than on economic development.

"If we spend our money on education, we will attract businesses and people who want to live in our area," Wellehan said. "We can't waste money on (tax incentives)."

Safety also came up as a big issue, with resident April Joyce saying she wanted safe, clean parks for her children.

"That's a huge missing piece, when we are talking about a sense of community, especially when you are talking about kids and young people and going to do things," she said.

The Community Conversations, meetings to find out what residents think about the community, will continue next week.

Meetings are scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 24, at Park Avenue School; Wednesday, Sept. 25, at East Auburn Community School; Tuesday, Oct. 1, at the Danville Grange; Wednesday, Oct. 2, at Sherwood Heights Elementary School; Tuesday, Oct. 8, at the Auburn Public Library; and Tuesday, Oct. 15, at Washburn Elementary School.

Each meeting is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. and to be two hours and 30 minutes long — a 30-minute social period, followed by two hours of discussion. Chairs were set up in a circle, encouraging residents and neighbors to talk and interact.

Each meeting begins with the same question: "Given the difficult decisions that our community must face and the reality that property tax increases must be minimized, what are our priorities for Auburn’s future?"

staylor@sunjournal.com

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Comments

Bob Stone's picture

Exodus

There are over a dozen homes for sale in my neighborhood. Hopefully, there will buyers that want to pay our high taxes.

Evan Cyr's picture

Climbing up the wrong tree...

People keep climbing up the school departments tree when it comes to local tax increases... Why? Are people really so far in the dark that they don't realize its not the schools that have been causing our taxes to go up, its the municipality spending? Every red cent of tax increase this year in Auburn went to the municipal budget, with ZERO increase to the schools. Its worth pointing out that we are one of VERY FEW towns in Maine where more of your taxes go to the municipality than go to the schools. The ironic part here is that the school department continues to EXPAND the services it provides to Auburn students, while the municipality decreases the services it provides to citizens. Who's making the best use of your tax dollars? So looking at this, someone explain to me why the schools should be blamed for our high taxes.

Evan, the school budget

Evan, the school budget increased by 1.3 million dollars. This years budget did not increase the mil rate, but the money came from the taxpayers.

Evan Cyr's picture

Check your math

Bob,

The increase came from STATE tax dollars. Now, I understand that these are still tax dollars, but I'd rather the school department bring my state taxes back here rather than have them go somewhere else. Apparently you'd rather that Auburn not try to bring back the money we sent to Augusta and let them give it to someone else.

Bob Wright's picture

I got news for Bob Armstrong.

I got news for Bob Armstrong. He will not attract young people or businesses with high taxes. If he hasn't noticed, there is a mass exodus going on in Auburn.

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