VASSALBORO

June 13, 2012

Oversight leaves school budget off ballot

By Susan M. Cover scover@mainetoday.com
State House Bureau

VASSALBORO -- Residents approved the $1.7 million town budget late Monday night, but the results of the school budget ratification vote won't be known for at least a few weeks.

That's because town officials forgot to put the $6.6 million school budget on Tuesday's election ballot, according to Town Manager Mary Sabins.

She called it "an absolute oversight."

"We can fix it," she said. "We just made a mistake."

State law requires a school budget ratification vote, which is supposed to take place before the start of the new fiscal year on July 1. Sabins said she needs to gather more information from the Maine Municipal Association to find out the requirements for issuing absentee ballots, which typically must be distributed 30 days in advance of a vote.

If a vote cannot be held before July 1, the current budget will stay in place until a new budget is ratified, she said.

Holding another election will cost a "couple hundred dollars," she said. Although the town prints all its ballots in-house, it does pay ballot clerks to monitor the polls and help tally results. Although voters at Monday's town meeting approved the school budget, a second vote is required.

Vassalboro is part of Alternative Organizational Structure 92, which also includes Waterville and Winslow.

The school budget proposes to increase taxes by $1 per $1,000 of property valuation, from $10 to $11. School officials say even though the proposed budget is $116,191 less than the current budget, a lack of state funding -- to the tune of $467,146 less than the current allocation -- means the town will have to pick up a larger share of the cost.

There was little discussion of the $6.6 million school budget at Monday's annual Town Meeting. One person asked Superintendent Eric Haley what percentage of the budget goes to administration, and he said it's 4.46 percent. He said he did not know how that compares to other school units.

Other items decided at the meeting:

* Voters approved ordinance changes that will require those who apply for building permits or subdivisions in the well-head protection area to notify the East Vassalboro Water Co. of the proposal.

* Voters rejected a proposal to exempt active duty military personnel from the vehicle excise tax. Residents raised several questions about how many people would benefit, how many vehicles would qualify for the exemption and what it would cost the town to institute the exemption.

* Voters passed a resolution calling on Congress to amend the U.S. Constitution to say that "corporations are not entitled to the rights of natural persons" when it comes to spending on political campaigns. The resolution is part of a national movement and similar measures have already passed in Waterville, Winslow, Fairfield, Bangor and Portland.

Susan Cover -- 621-5643

scover@mainetoday.com

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