FARMINGTON — In the midst of a contentious school budget season, a Chesterville man is calling for compromise.
“It is time for all this name-calling to stop,” Bob Millay of Chesterville said Thursday during a Regional School Unit 9 board meeting. “It is not appropriate.”
Millay is a member of Citizens for Common Sense Education, a group of people concerned about increased education spending, higher taxes and people not being able to make ends meet.
The group was instrumental in cutting nearly $1 million from a proposed $33.67 million spending proposal Sept. 5 in an effort to keep spending at last year’s level, but that budget failed at the polls Tuesday. It was the third time since June that an RSU 9 budget has been rejected by voters.
The process has become increasingly contentious, with reports of vote-related signs being destroyed, angry comments being made and questionable actions being committed.
Millay said some have asked for a community healing to bring people back together. It is time for both sides to compromise, he said.
His idea is to restore the nearly $546,000 cut from special education because it is needed, he said, and for the board to find reductions in other areas and renegotiate union contracts.
“I am not against education. This is all for the kids,” he said, adding that he hopes things improve for them.
The board is scheduled to start budget deliberations for the fourth time at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 19, at Mt. Blue Campus in Farmington. A district-wide vote is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 11, at the campus, followed by a validation referendum Tuesday, Oct. 24, in each of the 10 district towns: Chesterville, Farmington, Industry, New Sharon, New Vineyard, Starks, Temple, Vienna, Weld and Wilton.
Among the comments from people at Thursday’s board meeting were calls for better communication, clearer and more detailed information, explanations of warrant articles and informational meetings prior to the vote.
People stressed the importance of funding special education and libraries, getting a budget passed and thinking of all students. They also hoped for a reasonable budget to pass so students can continue to grow.
“Whatever you do, listen to the kids,” Fred O. Smith II of Farmington said, “and realize that programs including music and sports are meaningful to them. Just remember we are here for the kids to give them the best education possible.”
He believed the reason so many students attended a rally to support schools on Monday was because they were concerned about music, sports and other programs. More than 300 people attended the rally on Main Street in Farmington. Most were students.
Darlene Paine, principal of Cape Cod Hill School in New Sharon, said as a principal, she feels the district’s teachers lead children every day.
“Gone are the days of opening a book and read to chapter three,” she said. “Today teachers are doing a lot more for students, including making sure they are fed.”
She said to teachers: “Hold your heads high. Sleep well. You deserve every penny you make and then some.”
About 100 people attended an RSU 9 board meeting Thursday at Mt. Blue Campus and gave their input to directors on what they would like to see in the fourth budget process this year. They spoke of healing, compromise, funding special education and better communication.