Yarmouth adopts school budget, may see tax cut

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YARMOUTH — Residents overwhelmingly adopted a $21.17 million school budget in Tuesday’s annual Town Meeting at Harrison Middle School.

No opposing votes were cast against the 26 budget articles heard at the meeting, and no public comments were made or amendments offered. One item that required a written ballot was approved by more than a 10-1 margin.

“We worked very hard this year to keep the increase to a minimum,” said David Ray, chairman of the School Committee. “Candidly, I didn’t expect there would be much opposition to this budget, which is fiscally conservative.”

The budget represents a 1.8 percent increase over spending in the the current fiscal year. The School Committee in March recommended a $21.25 million budget, a 2.17 percent increase, but was urged by the Town Council to reduce that number by financing the purchase of a new bus over several years.

Despite the modest increase, the town’s expected total spending for 2014-2015, combining the municipal and education budgets, is $33.5 million, which could result in a property tax decrease of about 1.5 percent.

That would lower the mil rate to $21.67 per $1,000 of assessed value.

“Yarmouth and many other communities in Maine went through five or six years of economic turmoil,” Council Chairman Steve Woods said. “Our budget, which has a reduction for the first time in decades, reflects that the economy is changing and there’s real optimism in terms of our town going forward.”

A final decision on the adopted school budget comes when residents vote it up or down during elections on June 10.

At the beginning of Tuesday’s meeting, former Councilor and Fire Chief Carl Winslow received the 2014 Latchstring Award for his service to Yarmouth.

Several dozen audience members then stood and broke into song, delivering their version of Neil Diamond’s pop ballad, “Sweet Caroline.” The flash mob was an advertisement for the Yarmouth Community Chorus, which formed earlier this year.

The group will take a break for the summer and resume after Labor Day, member Leigh Kirchner told residents after the singing concluded.

“We invite anyone (to join) who’s interested in singing for the pure joy of it,” she said.

Brendan Twist can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or btwist@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @brendantwist.

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