Town Meeting OKs Yarmouth budget; referendum to follow

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YARMOUTH — In most instances Tuesday night, it took moderator Horace Horton longer to read the Town Meeting warrant articles than it did for residents to pass them.

With about 125 people attending the meeting at Harrison Middle School, voters gave initial approval to a nearly $20.2 million school budget for fiscal year 2013, and fully approved more than $11 million in municipal spending and the town’s share of Cumberland County operations.

The school budget faces a faces a yes-or-no vote in a referendum next Tuesday, June 12. Voters will also decide Town Council, Yarmouth Water District and School Committee elections. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Robert Boyd AMVETS Hall at 148 North Road.

Warrant Articles 2 through 29 passed by a show of hands and without comment, except for the 114-9 passage of Article 16 by secret ballot.

The article asked residents to approve spending $4.65 million more for local education than recommended by the Essential Services and Programs model provided by the Maine Department of Education.

State law requires the vote be cast by paper ballots, a process that took about 15 minutes of the 45-minute discussion and voting on the warrant.

In what was often a lone show of dissent, Councilor Tim Sanders voted against most of the 20 articles covering education spending.

If the school budget passes Tuesday, property owners can expect an increase in the tax rate from $20.28 per $1,000 of assessed value to $21.15 to cover $32 million of education and municipal spending.

A major change in school operations, where spending would increase by about 1.85 percent, will be the introduction of full-day kindergarten classes in the fall.

Additional town spending of $271,000 is largely for the town’s share of otherwise state-funded repairs to Route 88.

The hour-long meeting began with a tribute to Erving H. “Erv” Bickford, who was awarded the 2012 Latchstring Award for his leadership and commitment to the town.

Bickford, who served as a town councilor for 24 of the last 34 years, died May 12 after a long illness.

Councilor Carl Winslow read the resolution naming Bickford the recipient of the award, adding the choice this year was an easy one.

“There was no doubt in my mind as to who deserved the honor,” Winslow said.

Bickford’s wife, Lynn Bickford, and his daughters Tamson Bickford Hamrock and Susan Bickford, accepted the posthumous award.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.