LEWISTON — Deeper cuts may be coming after voters Tuesday rejected the proposed school budget for the second time, and city and school officials appear to be split on what further changes should be made.

Roughly 9% of registered voters showed up to the polls Tuesday and the majority rejected the roughly $110.34 million budget, 1,630 to 1,387. The turnout was more than double the roughly 4% of voters who showed up to vote last month when the previous proposal was rejected.

The School Committee had already cut more than $1 million from the previously proposed $111.47 million following the first failed vote. But some residents spoke at public meetings calling for deeper cuts.

City Clerk Kathy Montejo said she doesn’t recall a time when the school budget vote failed twice. The last time it failed the initial vote was in 2016.

By Wednesday afternoon, city and school officials were scrambling to establish a meeting schedule to discuss further budget cuts or changes, with the School Committee set to meet Thursday night.

School officials are hoping for a July 9 referendum.


The City Council will likely hold a 6 p.m. workshop prior to its regular meeting Tuesday and Mayor Carl Sheline said he’ll call a special meeting for the following Monday, June 24, for the council to vote on a revised budget.

Superintendent Jake Langlais said he is feeling like school administrators must somehow make more reductions to the proposed budget. Positions originally funded by federal pandemic relief aid will be one area where they will consider cuts.

Council President Scott Harriman believes the budget is “so lean” at this point that further cuts will likely impact programming for students.

“It’s disappointing that voters rejected the budget again, especially because we haven’t received much feedback from them about particular items to cut,” he said. “I strongly encourage people to contact the School Committee and come to our meetings to let us know what reductions to their kids’ schools they are looking for.”

Ward 1 Councilor Josh Nagine said it’s “disappointing” that the referendum failed again, and believes it may be time for the council to set a number for the overall property tax rate increase “and allow the School Committee to prioritize what they can cover under the limit set, as well as the amount they choose to utilize from their fund balance.”

Nagine said he believes the pushback on the school budget is based on real concerns from residential property owners about being able to cover expenses, and an “overall pushback against the rising budget on the municipal side as well.”


Some residents during previous meetings and on social media have called on the City Council to revisit the municipal budget even though it has already been approved for the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1.

Speaking for herself as the Ward 2 School Committee member, Janet Beaudoin said she thinks it is clear that the School Committee needs to make further reductions to the proposed budget. She would also like to see the City Council revisit its budget allocation.

“The discrepancy in authority between the city budget approval process and our (School Committee) need for a referendum doesn’t seem equitable,” she said.

Robert Reed, a former Finance Committee member commenting on the city’s Facebook page regarding the election results, said the City Council and School Committee should form a task force of citizens to look at both budgets and come up with recommendations for cuts.

“While the city budget has been approved, there is nothing in the charter that forbids you from making later cuts, much as you would do if there was an economic crisis you needed to respond to affecting spending,” he said.

Asked Wednesday, Sheline pushed back against the idea of revisiting the municipal budget.


“The idea of reopening the municipal budget is a nonstarter for me,” he said. “While the vote on Tuesday did not go the way I would have liked, the voters have spoken and I urge school administration and the School Committee to do the hard work to present a budget that the voters will approve.”

Reed also criticized the school district’s use of the fund balance rather than make additional cuts.

“That’s simply telling the taxpayer you will take it from their left pocket instead of their right pocket … at one time we paid taxes directly or indirectly that created that surplus,” he said. “Will you listen now or remain defiant of the voters?”

However, School Committee Chairperson Megan Parks said there are few areas where further cuts can be made with “the budget as lean as it is. She said she does support using more money from the School Department’s fund balance to reduce the burden on taxpayers.

“These are funds that we accrued from the taxpayers in previous budgets through unfilled positions and I feel very strongly that we should return these funds to the taxpayers in the form of a budget reduction,” she said. “Our district has survived on a $2 million fund balance for years prior to the pandemic and I think it is appropriate to return to that level of savings now in order to make this right with the voting public.”

She said new positions in the current proposed budget should be cut before school officials consider cutting staff. “Now is not the time to hack up the budget or eliminate needed staff,” she said.


Nagine said that while there are specific items that some residents take issue with in both budgets, “the simple truth is almost every single thing is more expensive today than it was last year, and the only way to lower the tax burden without an expanding tax base is to cut services that residents and students rely on.”

Langlais said in a statement after the results were announced Tuesday night that school officials need to get back to work.

“We are hopeful the process will be rooted in our mission, vision, and strategic priorities,” he said. “At times when budgets fail, it stirs up emotions but it is essential we stay true to the work at hand — being the very best we can for our kids with the resources available from what hopefully will be an approved budget next vote.”

The School Committee plans to meet Thursday at 5:30 p.m. to discuss the budget.

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