FARMINGTON — Someone tampered with “vote yes” signs supporting the Regional School Unit 9 budget Thursday and reposted them Friday night with altered messages.

Voters in a districtwide referendum narrowly passed the 2016-17 budget, after rejecting a spending plan in June.

On Saturday morning, teachers Jennifer and Cal Dorman of Middle Street found the “vote yes” sign on their lawn had been altered. Two other altered signs were found posted at Mallett School.

Bright pink paper covered parts of the signs with messages such as, “Taxpayers don’t count” and, “I stole my neighbor’s money I voted yes.”

Part of the message on the sign of special education teacher Jennifer Dorman targeted cuts made to special education, she said.

The two signs found at Mallett School were among those made by school board Director Tami Labul and her daughter. The signs disappeared last week. There were no signs posted at the school before Saturday.

“We made 17 but have only collected six,” Labul said Monday.

Signs were posted early last week at the end of Osborne Road and on Route 4 between Wal-Mart and McDonald’s, she said.

“It is very dispiriting that they disappeared and came back with such hateful messages,” Labul said.

According to state law, taking, defacing or disturbing a political sign is a civil violation that carries a fine of up to $250.

The Farmington Police Department had not received complaints about stolen signs, secretary Bonnie Pomeroy said. There is little they can do without catching the person with the sign, she added.

Jennifer Dorman, a middle school teacher in Skowhegan who was voted Maine’s Teacher of the Year in 2015, said she was surprised and felt a bit violated. 

“I have a right to my opinion and to vote yes without someone targeting me later,” she said. “I would not do anything to hurt those who voted no. Whoever stole the signs had a purpose — to repurpose them and get the last word in.”

Dorman said she tells her students the United States is a democracy. They have a right to their opinion but not to violate the civil rights of others, she said.

Increasing costs have made the school budget votes a difficult process over the past couple of years. Labul has started a public Facebook page hoping to get people from both sides to work together before next year.

The group, called Working Together for Change, is open to everyone. It is a positive attempt to build community and to become united, she said.

“We are focused on moving forward, solving problems and working together,” Labul said.

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