LEWISTON — School officials will get a second vote on their $69 million budget after city councilors narrowly agreed to send the matter on to voters Tuesday.

Councilor Shane Bouchard, speaking for those who voted no, said the proposed school budget was too similar to one voters turned down earlier this month.

“To send the same budget back to the voters — as a voter, I’m quite offended,” Bouchard said. “I think it’s irresponsible of the School Committee to do that.”

Councilors ultimately approved the budget 4-3, with Bouchard, Tim Lajoie and Mike Lachance opposing it.

Councilors in April approved a version of the school budget that called for a $4.09 million increase over the current year’s spending plan. That $69 million budget, rejected by voters on May 10, was defeated 373-367 — a six-vote margin.

School officials approved a second-draft budget Monday that was fundamentally the same as the one voters turned down May 10. The latest draft cut $19,000 overall from the May 10 version, but left the property tax rate the same for the 2016-17 fiscal year. The budget would still be a 6.3 percent increase over the current year’s budget, designed to pay for increased student enrollment.


The School Department’s second draft pays for summer school at Longley and Martel elementary schools with a grant, taking $36,000 off the property tax rolls. An education technician job for a school library was added, however, at a cost of $17,000.

Those two changes left the budget reduction on property taxes at $19,000.

Superintendent Bill Webster said both budgets represent the least amount of local property taxes the city can collect for the schools and meet state guidelines. Every dollar reduction would mean a corresponding $2.50 cut in state revenue.

Councilor Kristen Cloutier, the council’s representative on the School Committee, said it’s one of the reasons she supported it.

“The struggle for me came in that community members feel that these changes may not be substantive enough. I respect that,” she said. “But at the end of the day, we are on a tight timeline. We had to approve a budget last night and the council has to approve it tonight if we want to make the June 14 ballot.”

That ballot was another issue, with parent Tina Hutchinson urging councilors to send the budget back to the School Committee for more work. Voters also will vote June 14 on building a new elementary school. Hutchinson said she fears an unpopular budget could doom the new school.


“They are putting the new school in jeopardy,” she said. “We have to give it priority. Send the budget back to the schools and don’t put the school in jeopardy.”

Bouchard agreed.

“I feel very passionate about that school and about the new fields,” Bouchard said. “Putting that in jeopardy is also very irresponsible.”

Voters will see two questions under that heading:

• To approve the $49.7 million school building (to be funded by the state); and

• To approve spending $2.1 million for a larger gym and artificial turf (to be funded locally).


The 880-student school would be for students at Martel and Longley schools, and would take another 150 students from other schools to relieve overcrowding. The project would include new athletic fields for high school students and community walking trails.

If approved by voters, it would open in the fall of 2019.

Councilors also passed a resolution urging voters to approve the new elementary school 6-1, with Lachance in opposition.

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