Cumberland-North Yarmouth voters OK nearly $35M budget

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CUMBERLAND — Voters at May 19’s district budget meeting approved a nearly $35 million School Administrative District 51 budget for next year.

Held at Greely High School, and drawing 56 registered voters from Cumberland and North Yarmouth, the meeting is the first in a two-step approval process by the public. Final approval will be decided at June 14’s budget validation referendum.

The spending plan reflects a 3.5 percent increase over current spending.

The budget total, with anticipated revenues subtracted, would produce a proposed tax assessment on the Cumberland-North Yarmouth district of $22.5 million, a nearly $620,000 increase from the current fiscal year.

Cumberland’s tax rate is projected to rise by 1.1 percent, adding 20 cents per $1,000 of valuation, or a $70 annual increase on a home valued at $350,000.

North Yarmouth’s rate would increase 1.1 percent, for an extra 19 cents on the tax rate, or $66.50 for a $350,000 home.

Revenues include $11.9 million in state subsidy and the use of $300,000 from the district’s fund balance. Regular instruction, the biggest piece of the budget, is $15.6 million, an increase of about $374,000.

While most budget items passed without comment, Article 15 on the meeting warrant – which summarized the entire $34.96 million spending plan – drew some discussion. Brad Hilton of Cumberland told the School Board he supported “95, 97 percent of what you guys do,” but criticized a 3.5 percent budget increase in light of a school population decrease.

“I have a problem with that whole trend,” he said.

Andrea Berry of North Yarmouth praised the School Board “for presenting a budget that recognizes a number of different things. Importantly, that our school  district has amazing, expert, long-term teachers. … And that greatly benefits our students.”

The final warrant article – whether the School Board should move $450,000 from unexpended balances to the district’s capital reserve fund, drew discussion about how much of that funding would go toward a proposed performing arts center. School Board member Gigi Sanchez said some of the transferred funds would go toward temperature control issues and small-scale construction at the Mabel I. Wilson school, and for an architect to create a concept design for an arts center.

A decision on building an arts center could go to voters in November.

Pete Wilson of Cumberland, a former School Board member running for the panel this year, called for the warrant article to be amended so that no money in the article would be spend toward an arts center. The amendment failed, and the motion passed as originally worded.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.