LEWISTON — Voters on Tuesday approved a $61.17 million budget for the School Department.

The vote was 333-255.

Turnout was light — 2.4 percent of the city’s 24,000 registered voters — but steady, City Clerk Kathy Montejo said from the Longley Elementary School gymnasium.

“It’s going well. It’s busier than last year,” she said. She credited the School Department’s practice of mailing information about the budget to each household.

Voters offered mixed reactions to the budget, which calls for $17.9 million in property taxes, a $22.50 increase on a $150,000 home.

Stan Pelletier voted no because he was concerned about rising taxes.

“We’re getting more students; I don’t approve of it,” he said. “I deal with landlords. Everybody’s having a hard time. The city is, too. They’re broke.”

Senior citizen Anita Madore also voted no. “The budget is so high,” she said.

Richard and Loretta Hamann also voted no. A retired teacher, she said the School Department “is too top heavy and not enough bottom heavy. There are fewer teachers next year than last year. To me, that’s all wrong.”

“There’s a whole lot more new administrators down there,” her husband said. “They can’t find enough office space for them anymore.”

Ray Cook voted yes. “It’s a fair budget considering the available funds from the state,” Cook said. He noticed earlier proposals that called for higher property tax increases.

“The School Committee did a good job of bringing it down without destroying anything essential,” Cook said. The father of two who have graduated from Lewiston High School and one still in school, he said he was pleased the School Committee rejected a pay-to-play sports proposal. “I don’t think that would be fair for lower-income kids.”

Lewiston High School Booster Club parent David Rivet also voted yes. He said a lot of great things are going on in Lewiston schools, and he supports the development of students.

But, “we need to start looking at how the money’s being spent,” Rivet said. “It’s ironic that sports, which makes up such a small part of the $61 million budget, was cut,” Rivet said. “We never look at 80 percent of the budget, which is human resources.”

Private organizations can support sports “all day long,” he said. “It’s the 80 percent factor of human resources” that needs probing.

Fellow Booster Club parent Mark Jumper agreed, and he voted for the budget. Gridlock or slowing down the process is not the way to go, he said.

Jumper questioned whether school budget money “was being spent in the most economical way.”

That said, “I think our school system is fantastic,” he said. “I can’t blow Lewiston’s horn enough. The high school does a great job.” He said he just attended a National Honor Society program at which his daughter was among those being inducted.

“The Green Ladle was packed,” Jumper said. “It was standing room only. There’s a lot of great things going on.”


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