PARIS — Oxford Hills School District Superintendent Heather Manchester said her team plans to revise the $51.6 million budget rejected by voters Tuesday and present it to voters later this summer.

“It is clear that the request from the district was too high of an increase for the community,” she said in an email. “This appears to be a trend across our regions, where other budgets failed as well.”

Maine School Administrative District 17 Superintendent Heather Manchester addresses the board of directors April 22. The $51.5 million budget for 2024-25 was rejected Tuesday at the polls. Nicole Carter/Advertiser Democrat

Maine law dictates that when a budget is voted down, spending reverts to the previous year. For Oxford Hills, that amount just under $48 million.

The proposed budget was an increase of 11.7%.

The combined votes in the eight district towns Tuesday was 1,236 to 1,846. A majority of voters in Harrison, Hebron, Oxford, Paris, Waterford and West Paris opposed the budget, while the majority in Norway and Otisfield supported it.

The budget supports Maine School Administrative District 17, Maine Vocational Region 11 and Oxford Hills/Nezinscot Adult Education.


At $51.6 million, plus $2 million for capital improvement, residents of most towns made clear they are not willing to support programming made possible by COVID-era and American Rescue Plan Act funds.

The budget has been complicated by building projects to replace Oxford Hills Middle School in Paris and Agnes Gray Elementary School in West Paris within the next five to seven years. Both schools were placed on Maine Department of Education’s priority list for replacement in 2022.

Anticipating eventual new buildings, starting with the economic downturn of 15 years ago, district administrators and school board directors followed a pattern of deferring maintenance on its schools.

The consequences were amplified after the architectural firms contracted to lead the new construction projects, LaVallee Brensinger of Portland and Harriman of Auburn, inspected all schools last year and released reports that led to the closure Agnes Gray in February. Among the dangers identified in the report were lack of egress in most rooms of Agnes Gray, unsafe ramps, stairwells and fire exits and other life safety and Americans with Disabilities Act compliance issues.

SAD 17 took a step to rectify deferments, but the $2 million request was not accompanied with a detailed plan that allowed voters to see how it would be spent. The funds were approved at a districtwide hearing and vote last month but did not gain broad community support.

“The Budget Committee will reconvene next week,” Manchester wrote. “We have not set dates yet, but July and August are the most likely times” for an initial vote followed by a validation referendum.

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