Falmouth votes on $37M school budget, uncontested candidates

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FALMOUTH — With little discussion, the Town Council Monday sent a $36.9 million school budget to voters June 12.

The same day residents will elect two candidates running unopposed for open seats on the School Board.

The school budget represents an increase of just over 3 percent from the current year, for a 72-cent increase in the tax rate on the school side, according to figures provided by the School Department.

In addition to approving the new school budget, the council also unanimously voted in favor of a combined $51.4 million fiscal year 2019 budget. That amount includes $12.8 million in municipal spending and the county tax assessment.

Overall, residents will see an 85-cent increase, for a new tax rate of $16.47 per $1,000 of valuation.

In its budget presentation to the council earlier this spring, the School Department said it tried to keep increases to a minimum.

However, spending does include five new positions, including a guidance counselor at the elementary school and a computer science teacher at the middle school. The budget would also change a school psychologist from a federally funded grant position to being paid through local dollars.

Unopposed candidates

A paralegal who is also a school and community volunteer, and an educational administrator are running for the two open seats on the School Board.

Current School Board member Dee Conroy-Vella is term-limited from running for re-election and Cindy Han chose not to seek re-election.

Nicole Bezanson was raised in Falmouth and works part-time as a paralegal at Pierce Atwood in Portland while also being a Mary Kay consultant. She’s been on the board of Witches Wear Pink, a cancer fundraising project based in Falmouth, and has volunteered at Falmouth Elementary School, Falmouth Memorial Library and with the Girl Scouts.

She’s running because she feels “our children are the most important resource we have and that by giving them a solid foundation to launch from, we are making a difference for the future.”

“I am very passionate about the safety of our children and about providing the best environment for each child to thrive in,” Bezanson added. “I will work hard to ensure that our children’s safety, inclusion of ideas and constructive discourse are top priorities and I will work with the other board members to prepare a sound and efficient budget.”

Whitney Bruce is an independent educational consultant, member of the board of the Falmouth Education Foundation, and a college counselor at the Maine Coast Waldorf School.

She’s running because she has spent her entire career in education and believes in its value and “ability to be transformative for students.”

“I (also) believe our schools are one of the defining features of our community (and) I will continue to work on maintaining and expanding that excellence,” she said.

Bruce said one of the biggest issues facing the School Department over the next few years will be a continuing decline in state aid to education.

“I also believe that building connections between teachers, administrators and the students is critical to providing a safe, engaging and relevant education for each student,” she said.

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or kcollins@theforecaster.net. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

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