AUBURN — A recount of the Auburn school budget referendum won't be held until voters' signatures are collected and turned in on a petition, tax advocate Ron Potvin said.
Potvin and others who say the school budget increase is too high were gathering signatures Saturday. Potvin expects the petition requesting a ballot recount to be turned in by Tuesday, which would allow the recount to be scheduled.
The $35.9 million school budget, up from $34.7 million, initially was reported as a tie vote in an extremely low voter turnout Tuesday. The unofficial vote Tuesday night was 349-349, according to Acting City Clerk Sue Clements-Dallaire.
On Wednesday the official vote was reported as 349-344, with the win going to passage of the budget. Dallaire explained a check of the numbers the morning after the referendum showed an error was made when tally sheets were totaled.
“Finding” five votes that passed the budget seemed odd, Potvin said when he asked for a recount Wednesday. City hall staff asked for legal opinion on how to proceed with the request for a recount.
Lawyers, including the Attorney General's Office and city attorney Daniel Stockford of Brann and Isaacson, said before a recount could be held, a petition had to be turned in with 100 signatures of Auburn voters.
There are different requirements for requesting a school budget referendum recount since it follows state law, Stockford said in a letter LaBonte released Saturday. State regulations say a recount must be requested within five business days after the election, which means the petition must be turned in by Tuesday, May 15.
Potvin said he'll have no trouble gathering the 100 signatures. “My phone has not stopped. Right now I've got 16 places to go” to collect signatures. I've been floored by the outpouring.”
About half of those who called him did not vote, he said. “They're kicking themselves about it. (It's) a good civics lesson (on the importance of voting)."
Of the $35.9 million budget, nearly $20 million would come from state aid to education; $15.4 million would be paid by Auburn property taxes. The proposed budget means the annual property tax bill for an Auburn home valued at $150,000 would go up by $66 beginning July 1.
While Potvin said a 5 percent increase on local taxpayers is too high, Superintendent Katy Grondin has countered that what Auburn spends on education lags behind the state average. Auburn spends $8,050 per student; the state average is $9,623.