GRAY — Moderator Don Libby of New Gloucester lead 37 registered voters in Gray and New Gloucester on Thursday as they passed Regional School Unit 15’s proposed 2015-16 budget, totaling $23.91 million.

This paves the way for the June 9 district referendum validation approval vote at the polls. 

At the same time, by a ballot vote of 27 to 10, voters agreed to raise $99,544 to fund a school resource officer for 38 weeks per year, contingent on the town of Gray’s approval to spend $36,500 to provide community policing for 14 weeks when school is not in session.

A vote at the polls separate from the school validation approval is required for the resource officer.

Fran Monroe of Gray spoke against hiring a resource officer, arguing that other programs are in place and offenders must be dealt with properly. 

“To ask the citizens to pay such an outrageous price (means) someone is not doing a proper job,” Monroe said. “Administration should look at other alternatives rather than cripple the citizens with taxes. We’re not the worst school district in the state. Schools should take care of it, not citizens.” 

Richard Barter of Gray said, “I worry about the statistics in Gray. We have been identified as a high-risk community. Drugs have exploded across America. This is a modest expense to add this model of protection. Teachers are not trained or qualified. Sadly, I don’t like the spending.” 

Both Gray and New Gloucester rely on rural patrol by Cumberland County Sheriff’s Department and the Maine State Police. Neither funds dedicated police departments.

The $23.91 million school budget is an increase of 0.49 percent compared to the current school year’s budget.

Property tax for Gray residents would increase by $14 per $100,000 of assessed property value. For New Gloucester residents, it would be about $7.

The resource officer, if approved, would add $9 per $100,000 in Gray and $8 per $100,000 in New Gloucester.

The budget meeting approvals set in motion the referendum validation procedure and a final vote on resource officer approval on June 9.

Voters urged the school board to have a dedicated administrator at both Memorial School in New Gloucester and Russell School in Gray. The board will review that at a future open-session meeting.

On June 9, polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. in Gray at Newbegin Gymnasium and from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the New Gloucester Fire Station.

At the same time, municipal officers and school board members will be elected.