Originally published in The Weekly Packet, April 10, 2014
Blue Hill Town Meeting
Approved: school budget with sharp increase, pre-K program
School Board Chairman John Richardson outlines some questions and answers pertaining to the 2014-15 school budget at town meeting April 5. From left, Superintendent Mark Hurvitt, and school board members Annie Rice, Ben Wootten read along.
by Faith DeAmbrose
After a procedural tutorial from moderator Eckley Herrick and a recognition of Town Clerk Etta Perkins who is celebrating her 20th year at the position, town meeting began in Blue Hill. First up on the April 5 agenda: the school budget. It passed, but not without a discussion about not only its merits, but how finite resources need to be shared.
While some asked whether you could put a price tag on education, others asked how much taxpayers could bear.
The firehouse roof will only get patched because of the needs at the school, said Fire Chief Denny Robertson, who prefaced his comments by declaring a “love of children and education.”
For close to an hour and a half discussion ensued about the school budget increase of nearly $400,000 and the $200,000 the budget committee said could be cut. John Chapman, speaking on behalf of the budget committee, said that while the committee was not trying to micromanage the school budget, it did have concerns that the increase would not be sustainable for some residents. He called the increase “disastrous” and said businesses were closing and people were losing jobs. “It was not the time to see such a sharp increase,” he said.
One resident noted that in a handout from the school a number of items already had been cut or reduced: Gifted and Talented program, summer school and literacy, curriculum development, student body activities, classroom supplies, field trips, books and musical equipment (a total of $46,660, according to information provided from the school). He questioned the wisdom of further cuts, while other residents asked if the school got the increase this year, could they come back next year with something closer to a one-percent increase?
The budget ultimately passed by a written ballot total of 184 to 130. After the school articles were passed, the audience thinned dramatically.
The afternoon session brought little discussion.
Voters easily passed an article asking for $100,000 for work to be done on Parker Point Road from “Blaise deSibour’s Toy Box through the ‘S’ corner,” said Road Commissioner Billy Cousins. The road will be ground and resurfaced. “There is between 10 and 14 inches of pavement” on the road,” he said. The project will include “heavy drainage work,” and paved shoulders. Selectman John Bannister told voters that this was one piece of a project—ultimately scaled back because of the large school budget increase—and he expected additional work to be done in future years. “I just want to make it clear that this is a multi-year project,” said Bannister.
When all was said and done, voters authorized $4,688,779 for school expenses and just over $2 million for municipal expenses.
In voting the previous day, Selectman John Bannister was returned to office with 104 votes. Road Commissioner Bill Cousins received 121 votes, and Patricia Rice and Sean Walsh each received 98 votes for positions on the school board. All races were uncontested.