LEWISTON — The City Council will decide next week whether to send an amended school budget to referendum for a third time, but at least two councilors believe it’s now too low and will hurt students.

In response, Superintendent Jake Langlais urged councilors to support the updated budget during the June 24 special meeting.

He said if the proposed July 9 referendum fails, “we will have to freeze things immediately,” including all after-school programming that also provides federally-reimbursed meals.

On Monday, the School Committee forwarded an updated budget with an additional $1.7 million in cuts following the second unsuccessful referendum on June 11. Major staff cuts would be avoided by using $1.1 million more in fund balance, but Langlais said the cuts include four existing employees and several other unfilled positions.

School Committee members also agreed to make further cuts in supplies, nutrition, transportation and more.

During a council workshop Monday, Councilors Tim Gallant and David Chittim said they wouldn’t support the updated budget.


“I’m going to vote no. I think it’s too low,” Gallant said, adding that he believes part of the public’s response has been caused by “fear mongering” regarding the citywide revaluation that is now underway, but is not slated to be implemented until 2026.

Gallant called cuts to items like a resource officer and transportation “foolish.”

“I think you’ve gone too far, taking some essential things out that will hurt our students,” he said.

Chittim said he’d also vote against, stating, “I look at this like shooting ourselves in the foot.”

However, Langlais pressed the council to support the new budget due to the hard work and decisions made by the School Committee and the need to have a budget passed in July.

Other councilors signaled they would support the budget, but said the cuts would harm the school department’s ability to deliver the programming needed for students.


“I’m hesitant to start cutting staff, especially with our enrollment growing,” Council President Scott Harriman said. “It’s unfortunate we’re at this point, but I’m concerned for the future of our education system.”

Councilor Josh Nagine said that with the School Committee agreeing to the updated budget, “I’m hesitant to think it would pass” if the council went back on the cuts.

But he also spoke about the issues facing the district.

“Children do not pick their income level, their abilities, their language,” he said. “Equal access to quality education is what breaks the poverty cycle.”

Nagine also pressed officials to relook at how the budget process is presented to the public each year. He said next year, officials on both the city and school side need to do a better job of discussing the overall property tax rate increase with the public .

“Some of the pushback is also based on municipal spending,” he said.

If adopted as presented, the updated school budget would add $1.16 to the property tax rate. The total tax rate would rise to $31.77 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, a $1.77 increase from the current $30 rate.

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