FARMINGTON — Mt. Blue High School students and others will take to the streets Monday to rally in support of education.
Voters cut nearly $1 million from an initial proposed budget Tuesday. Voters will consider validating the $32.65 million proposal, which is nearly $100,000 less than the 2016-17 budget, during a yes-or-no validation referendum Tuesday, Sept. 12, in each of 10 towns in the district.
The budget process has become more contentious this year than last year. With both sides campaigning to get voters out, students are weighing in.
River Lisius, a senior at Mt. Blue High School, is organizing a vote “no” on the budget campaign with a “Stand up for Schools” event from 3:30 to 6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 11, in front of the Farmington Post Office on Main Street in Farmington.
A “no” vote means the school board would need to develop a new budget to go before voters for 2017-18 and a “yes” vote means the $32.65 million budget will pass for 2017-18.
Lisius wrote in a Facebook post, “School is a special place. A lot more happens than just learning. Inspiration, creativity and growing-up happens. Teachers make kids who they are, as do clubs, sports and music.”
She and others plan to show that students are proud of their school, and “believe it is worth standing up for,” she wrote.
Former school board director and Farmington Selectman Nancy Porter of Farmington, who is in favor of lowering the budget, sent an email to four female school directors on Wednesday morning to express her opinion.
On the “yes” side of the budget, Porter wrote in part that “I know you are upset by last night’s meeting. How do you think the taxpayers have felt for the past three or four years? After the first vote, when we knew how many people we had willing to vote against the budget, we could have cleaned your financial house. We discussed it, but decided that to be “fair” we’d just reduce it to last year’s budget.”
“The entire town of New Vineyard and Temple will vote YES; New Sharon and Chesterville will also. These are the people who can’t afford more taxes. And now that the tide has turned, you need to be conscious that now that the taxpayers realize if we band together, we can win at a Budget Meeting. There are a lot more of “us” than there are of you,” according to Porter’s email.
Julianna Labul, a senior, wrote in an email that she is concerned about the education and extracurricular activities for all students in the district.
“I’ve never seen/heard so much hate about a school budget in my life,” she srote. “The budget that had been proposed on Tuesday night was not going to raise taxes, and yet we’re still having this issue,” wrote Labul, the daughter of school board Director Tami Labul of Farmington.
“The after-school programs, these sports, these things deemed ‘unnecessary’ by the residents who made these cuts, help, improve, and/or are needed in so many students’ lives,” Julianna Labul wrote.
“What can be seen as just an extra program to outside viewers is something that can motivate students to come to school when academics don’t, where they can make lifelong friendships, learn new skills, and have experiences that six hours in a classroom can’t offer,” she wrote.
“Students in high school are faced with planning for their future and need to take a lot of classes to graduate. There are also all kinds of opportunities to explore interests and build skills that will help them in college and careers,” Labul wrote.