Voters to decide on Lewiston school budget

LEWISTON — The school budget going to a citywide referendum next Tuesday is designed to serve the district’s most vulnerable students.

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the former Longley Elementary School at 145 Birch St.

The $92.2 million budget adopted by the School Committee and approved by the City Council includes a 60-cent increase on the local property tax rate. That means local taxpayers would pay an additional 60 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.

The fiscal year 2022 budget includes a 4% increase over this year’s $88.6 million spending plan.

Despite reductions to his original budget, Superintendent Jake Langlais said Friday that he believes the district can operate on the proposed amount.

“Voters ultimately decide at the referendum Tuesday and can indicate if they feel the budget is too low or too high as part of the referendum,” he said.

He said the plan includes:

• Necessary supports for language learners that have been declined in the past.

• Opens new opportunities for students and community with the expansion of Lewiston High School, which will be completed around the end of October.

• Celebrates identity, creativity and expression with the arts commitments.

• Maintains current staff.

The School Committee was forced to amend its spending plan earlier this month because the City Council voted down the proposed $95.7 million budget.

The council demanded a 40-cent cut to the committee’s proposed $1 increase on the tax rate.

That required moving $800,000 from the general fund and using an additional $480,000 in carryover, $281,000 in COVID-19 relief funding and $40,000 from the Adult Education fund balance.

School Committee members were not happy with the shifts. Moving recurring expenses into relief funds means that money will be gone in two years.

Committee Vice Chairman Bruce Damon said at a recent meeting that the council’s decision “sets us up for disaster next year.”

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