LEWISTON — Voters will decide the 2019-20 school budget Tuesday in a citywide referendum.

Voting is scheduled for 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Longley Elementary School, 145 Birch St.

Voters will be asked to approve an $86.5 million school budget, up about 4.6% from current spending.

Because Lewiston is receiving more education money from the state, the budget represents a less than 1 percent increase to property taxes.

If approved, the budget would better meet the needs of students by reducing some class sizes, expanding electives at Lewiston High School and improving alternative education for students who are struggling in a large high school, Superintendent Bill Webster said.

The budget would increase annual taxes by about $15 on a property valued at $150,000, down from an earlier estimate of $24, according to Webster. The spending plan reflects an average per-student cost of $10,726, compared to a state per-student cost of $11,921.

The percentage of the budget that goes to direct classroom lessons is 71.6 percent, compared to 63.6  percent statewide, Webster said.

Overall, the proposed budget maintains existing programs and adds 20 new positions, not including more special education positions that could be added if more students show up in the fall, Superintendent Bill Webster said.

The 20 new positions are largely meant to help reduce chronic absenteeism in Lewiston schools. Chronic absenteeism is defined as missing 10 percent or more of school days.

The budget also covers:

  • The opening of Robert V. Connors Elementary School this fall, a school that will merge Martel and Longley elementary schools. With the new school are vastly improved athletic fields at the high school now in use that are allowing the city to host state and regional competitions that weren’t possible with the old fields. The budget also includes the closing of the Martel building and transferring the Lisbon Street property to the city.
  • Consolidating three alternative programs with one new alternative high school at the Longley building. Housing the programs in one building will better meet the needs of students who aren’t having success in a large high school.
  • Support for expeditionary learning at Lewiston Middle School. This approach to education allows students to learn by conducting “learning expeditions” rather than always sitting in a classroom and being taught one subject at a time.