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Falmouth council hears school budget concerns

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Falmouth council hears school budget concerns

FALMOUTH — A looming school budget crisis was foremost on people's minds at the Town Council meeting on Monday, Feb. 22.

Preliminary reports on fiscal year 2011 state funding for Falmouth's schools suggest a loss of nearly $900,000 in general aid to education.

During Monday's open public forum, residents expressed their concerns about what the reduction will mean to teacher-student ratios, special education and quality programming.

Councilor Will Armitage put the onus on teachers.

"Teachers ... I don't think they get it ... in trying to renegotiate their contracts," Armitage said. "I get it, but the same old same old isn't going to fly, like pay raises."

Armitage encouraged residents to make their concerns heard at school budget forums, because "the teachers union representative who will be there needs to hear it."

Council Vice Chairman Tony Payne said he felt confident the School Board has risen to the challenge and that no stone will be left unturned to find cost-saving measures. He encouraged residents to "stay tuned, get involved, and appreciate the vigilance."

Upcoming public forums include an all-day School Board budget meeting on Saturday, March 13. A joint School Board/Town Council presentation on school and town budgets is expected in late March or early April, with an opportunity for public input.

April 26 is the tentative date for council approval of the town and school budgets, followed by a public budget referendum in May.

In other business, the Community Facilities Planning Committee reported it is close to making its future use recommendations for Town Hall, Falmouth Memorial Library, Plummer-Motz and D.W. Lunt schools, and the Pleasant Hill Fire Station.

On Monday, April 5, at 7 p.m. in the Plummer-Motz gymnasium, the committee will present its recommendations in a public forum open to all Falmouth residents.

Following an executive session at the end of Monday's meeting, the council decided to purchase a parcel of land in the Hadlock Community Forest area that connects to other open space wwned by the town.

The approximately 16-acre parcel is valued at just under $100,000.  The purchase is contingent upon the town receiving a grant from Land for Maine's Future, and no town money will be used for the purchase.

Grant recipients are expected to be announced March 10.

Heather Gunther can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 115 or hgunther@theforecaster.net.