LEWISTON — Residents voted 415-231 on Tuesday to approve an $86.5 million school budget for 2019-20.

The budget is a 4.6% increase to current spending, but because Lewiston is receiving more education subsidies from the state, the increase to property taxes will be less than 1%.

At 648, voter turnout for the budget validation referendum was about 2.4% of the city’s roughly 27,000 registered voters.

Superintendent Bill Webster has said the budget will 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 at a large high school.

The budget will 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, 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.

Voters on Tuesday also voted to continue approving the annual school budget in the referendum process.

In the nonbinding advisory question on spending, 250 voters said the budget is “too high,” 279 said it is “acceptable” and 108 said it is “too low.”

Last year, the vote tally was 586-548, which was a record turnout for a Lewiston school budget referendum, with 4.3 percent turnout.

The 2019-20 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 that are allowing the city to host state and regional competitions that were not 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 are not 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.

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