LEWISTON — After a lengthy debate and a split council vote, officials are hoping the third time’s the charm for getting next year’s school budget approved by voters.

The council voted 4-3 at a special meeting Monday to send the budget to a third referendum on July 9 after the prior two votes failed.

Of the three councilors who voted against the budget, one believes it’s still too high, one believes it’s too low, and another thinks the School Committee should revisit which staff and programs are to be cut. Those beliefs could also mirror those of the voters, who will get another say next month.

During the meeting, Superintendent Jake Langlais said if the third vote fails, he will be faced with “having to figure out what to freeze” in the budget. While the budget would default to the last budget approved by the School Committee, he said he’d have to operate under the assumption that the budget eventually passed would be significantly lower.

Last week, the School Committee forwarded an updated budget with an additional $1.7 million in cuts following the second unsuccessful referendum June 11. Major staff cuts would be avoided by using $1.1 million more in the 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.


Several teachers attended Monday to urge the council to approve the new proposal, even as they believe it’s now too low.

Councilor David Chittim said he voted no because the budget doesn’t meet the minimum needs of the schools. He said he heard a lot of people tell him it’s too low, but to vote yes anyway.

“That doesn’t make sense to me,” he said.

Councilor Tim Gallant, who had previously said the budget is too low to support students, has taken issue with the cuts proposed by the School Committee.

Chittim and Gallant, who represent Wards 6 and 7, respectively, were reminded by a constituent that those wards have voted against the school budget, and said the budget was too high.

“I question who you’re representing,” resident Andrew Jones said.


Other residents urged the council to support the budget, arguing that education needs to be supported in order to address economic issues Lewiston is facing. Others pointed out that the district enrollment is growing.

Another resident, Steve Morgan, said that as a Realtor, one of the first questions clients ask is about the Lewiston school district. He said if the school budget continues to be cut, he’ll have to tell them “middle to average.”

“This cannot keep going back and forth,” Hawo Abdille said. “It’s embarrassing to Lewiston.”

Ward 1 Councilor Josh Nagine said his ward supported the school budget during the previous vote. He said some can’t afford the tax increase no matter what, but that it’s “not a school department problem, that’s a municipal problem.”

“I just hope the third time is the charm,” he said. “If it doesn’t pass, we’ll have to do it again.”

Mayor Carl Sheline urged the council to support the budget unanimously, to not send “a mixed message.”

The exact opposite occurred. Councilors Nagine, Susan Longchamps, Harriman and Michael Roy voted in favor, while councilors Eryn Soule-Leclair, Chittim and Gallant were opposed.

Roughly 9% of registered voters showed up to the polls on June 11 and 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 in May 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.

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