Yarmouth budgets generate concern, but move forward

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YARMOUTH — Despite some concerns, the Town Council moved the municipal and school budgets forward to a final public hearing.

Councilors on April 14 unanimously decided to take up the combined $36 million budget May 5, when they are also expected to adopt it.

Three of the four hours of the meeting were spent on public comment from the standing-room-only crowd at the Log Cabin. While councilors heard from people both for and against the budget, most of the three dozen people who spoke supported it.

The municipal budget of almost $12 million would decline about $66,000, or 0.55 percent. The town is conducting a revaluation, to be completed in May, which will contribute to a lower tax rate of $18.48 per $1,000 of assessed value. That’s a decrease of $3.08 from the current year, or 14.29 percent.

Yarmouth’s overall budget, which includes the county assessment of more than $1 million, will increase by more than $1 million, or 3.11 percent.

Most of the people who spoke addressed the $23.1 million school budget, which would increase almost $1.1 million, or 4.97 percent.

“After reading the school budget, it was clear that it was put together carefully and thoughtfully,” resident Kate Shub said. “The return on your investment is priceless.”

“It’s a needs-based budget,” School Committee member Philip Jones said.

But Bruce Soule, who belongs to a group that calls itself the Yarmouth Tax Study Committee, asked councilors to reject the school budget. The group, which has about two dozen members, organized in March.

“I’m here tonight to speak out for residents who are afraid to speak out about overspending,” Soule said.

Soule submitted a petition to councilors asking them to reject the school budget, which, according to him, had 180 signatures. Town Manager Nat Tupper on Tuesday said the signatures haven’t been counted or certified by the town clerk because the petition was submitted to “make a statement” and hadn’t been done through the town’s official process.

Superintendent of Schools Andrew Dolloff said he and the School Committee are seeking more spending per student. Dolloff said enrollment has gone up 14 percent since 2010, with almost 80 new students across the district’s four schools this year.

Some residents at the public hearing had concerns about increasing enrollment and students who are nonresidents. They also spoke of the “campus class,” which refers to people who move to town only so their children can attend Yarmouth schools, and expressed concern about the impact the school budget will have on the town’s elderly residents.

To address these concerns, Councilor David Craig presented a tax assistance program called Senior Tax Assistance Yarmouth, or STAY, which would have used $120,000 from the town’s undesignated funds to help seniors pay their taxes. Craig’s motion was not supported and died for lack of a second.

Despite this, Councilor Pat Thompson said the needs of older residents can’t be neglected.

“While everyone wants the best for Yarmouth’s students, it shouldn’t be at the expense of our elderly,” she said. “The School Committee needs to work more closely with us so we can address the needs of all Yarmouth residents.”

Council Chairman Randall Bates said the School Committee did include items in the budget that councilors specifically requested, including nurses in each school and revised benefit packages.

“With respect to the School Committee, I think they’ve done what we’ve asked them to do,” Bates said. “I’m not happy with the municipal or school side of the budget, but I support it.”

Councilor Rob Waeldner wasn’t happy with the budget either.

“On the municipal side, it’s a lean budget, maybe a little too lean,” he said. “On the school side, I think the increase was a little high.”

Waeldner said he trusts Dolloff and the School Committee, however, and is “comfortable” with their budget.

But he also said supporting the two budgets was a hard decision.

“It was not a slam dunk,” Waeldner said.

That seemed to be the consensus among councilors, who approved the budget unanimously, despite their concerns.

After the May 5 public hearing, the budget will be voted on at the annual Town Meeting June 7. The school budget must be ratified in a referendum June 14.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

Yarmouth Superintendent of Schools Andrew Dolloff speaks, right, during a public hearing April 14 on the municipal and school budgets. More than 100 people attended the meeting in the Log Cabin.

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I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.
  • YarRes

    I was there at the beginning of the meeting and it was pretty obvious where it was headed ,so I went home. I’ve watched it a couple of times on tape. What impressed me a lot was that many of the YES crowd moved here within the past three to five years. What a pushy bunch they seem to be. Demanding smaller classes. Demanding a bigger budget. They have no regard for the people in this town who’ve been here for years,maybe for generations. Can you say arrogance?They seem to think the town should cater to them. And most of them said they moved here for the schools. So we all know they’ll be moving out after the kids graduate. A few said we should be spending more on the school budget. I say there’s nothing preventing them from writing a check to the Town,over and above their taxes, for any amount they’d like.I’m sure it would make them feel good about themselves.
    One of them said it was inappropriate to be questioning the budget at the 11th hour. Excuse me,what do you think we have a Public Hearing for?Actually two Public Hearings. I think she just doesn’t want anyone to speak who doesn’t agree with her.That line of thinking gave rise to the “safe zones” at some colleges. Good thing the Founding Fathers didn’t think it was inappropriate to question the King.

    • EABeem

      You know what’s worse than people with kids in school advocating for the school budget? People whose kids benefited from Yarmouth’s great schools wanting to cut the budget now that their kids are out of school. In my experience of 32 years living in Yarmouth, the majority of residents supported the schools and a minority of fiscal conservatives complained year after year. Yarmouth residents get a big bang for their buck — one of the best school systems in the country and real estate values that are a direct reflection of those schools.

      • Jimmy_John67

        You have stated multiple times in the past 2 weeks that a home is not a speculative investment. If it is not speculative then quality of schools would have no correlation to real estate values. So which is it?

        P.S. You should really start a reference log of some kind with all the various know nothing claims you spew. That way at least you wouldn’t constantly contradict yourself like you do now.

      • YarRes

        You know what’s worse than people whose kids benefited from Yarmouth’s great schools wanting to cut the budget now that their kids are out of school? People whose kids benefited from Yarmouth’s great schools and now that they’ve graduated they cut and run to another town cuz our taxes are too high.You see Ed, the other group of parents is still here,still doing the heavy lifting. And you’re right Ed,we do get a big bang…..everytime we open our tax and sewer bills. And Ed, the only people who like high real estate values are realtors,people selling their home,and Town Hall….it gives them more money to ply their trade with.

        • EABeem

          Totally predictable response. Taxes had absolutely nothing to do with our decision to move to Brunswick. We did not think they were too high in Yarmouth and there are people in Brunswick who complain about school budgets and high taxes, too. We paid taxes for several years before our kids were in school and for several years afterwards. We will support the school budgets in Brunswick now that we live here. I will be very surprised and disappointed if Yarmouth voters turn on their great schools after all these years. Of course, I have been very disappointed in Maine voters in general in recent years, so who knows.

          • YarRes

            Ed, Ed, Ed, come on now. We know each other lightly,and we know people in common. Everyone knows one of the reasons(not the only) you guys moved was that it’s getting too pricey here.You and I actually covered this same topic right here in this forum,I believe last year.

          • EABeem

            Taxes had zero to do with our decision to move. We couldn’t find what we wanted at an affordable price in Yarmouth, but did in Brunswick. Home prices were the deciding factor. Taxes had nothing to do with it. You may be paying more, but your taxes are going down. Both the council and school committee do a good job of keeping increases down.

          • YarRes

            So did fees have anything to do with you moving Ed?How would you know if the SC and TC are doing a good job keeping increases down? You BOLTED. And no Ed,they’re not doing a good job at keeping increases down,so says my checkbook ledger.

    • jbs01

      I was unaware that voting rights and participation at town council meetings had a vetsing provision. Just how long must one live in a town before they can participate fully in town activities?
      Does this same probationary period apply to volunteering at clam festival, in schools or at church?
      Please tell me, I would like to know.

      • YarRes

        That’s OK,we can’t all be aware of everything. To answer your question….of course they can vote and participate. No one is questioning that,so don’t take an extreme approach. But what’s bothersome about a lot of them(not all) is that they don’t assimilate. They show up, and their approach is “We’re here and this is what we want.”.I’m trying to think of the best adjective to describe a lot of the “newer” crowd,and I’m torn on which term is best…..presumptuous, arrogant, self absorbed,self important? Take your pick,I guess. And they’re really intolerant of people that don’t agree with them. During the meeting,anytime someone from the opposition spoke,they were somewhat vocal,and rude,talking amongst themselves in the back. I had to ask a couple of them to keep it down as I couldn’t here.They don’t get the whole concept of humility,so I guess self-righteous would be another adjective to describe them. Soooo,anything else you want me to paint with a broad brush? LOL

        • jbs01

          I believe you were questioning the appropriateness of newcomers to participate in the process. I believe one person one vote applies and to suggest that lawful residents have less of a say is not appropriate.
          What they want is just as valid is what you want. No more. No less.
          May be tough to stomach but that is the way the system works.

          • YarRes

            Nope.I’m not questioning the appropriateness of their participation in the process. I’m not questioning anything. I’m stating that they(not all of them but a lot of them) have chips on their shoulders. They’re full of themselves. It is that simple.

        • jbs01

          Isn’t your argument based on intolerance for the point of view of newbies. The assumption is that they need to assimilate. Well, one person one vote.
          You may not like what they have to say. But you are better off engaging the marketplace of ideas than just telling the new folks to “pipe down.”
          I don’t care where a good idea comes from. Newbie or old timer. But to be clear, old timers do not have a monopoly on the correct point of view.

          • YarRes

            Valid question,but no…..it’s not based in intolerance of newbies.When I say they should assimilate, I don’t mean they should agree with anyone’s ideas. I mean they should realize there’s an ongoing process that ‘s been in place long before they came to town, and they should honor that.If you go to get an ice cream and you find a line assembled,you get on the end of the line.That’s just good manners,but some of these guys want to cut in line,and bypass the people who’ve been here all along. I’m not intolerant of their ideas; I’m an advocate of the free flow of ideas,regardless of where they come from. Even the village idiot has a good idea once in awhile.I’m intolerant of their manners,or lack thereof…of their behavior. And why shouldn’t they be told to “pipe down”. They were rude,making enough noise so some of us couldn’t hear.If you want to talk about intolerance, look at what one woman said about it being inappropriate to question the budget at the 11th hour. She’s trying to shut down the free flow of ideas(free speech) if they don’t agree with her decision. The process calls for 2 Public Hearings.If you can’t have an exchange of ideas at a Public Hearing,where can you have that exchange?I can’t remember how long she said she’d been in town,but it wasn’t that long.. There’ve been others who said we shouldn’t question the budget. Really? In a free society?No questioning? One of those people is an elderly woman(who’ll remain nameless) who spoke at both the April 7th TC workshop and April 14th Public Hearing. Her tone is that she’s put out that the budget is being questioned. She’s been known to try to lay guilt on the members of the Tax Comm., trying to shame them. She makes it known that her lineage has been here for many generations. She’s been somewhat a poster child for the YES camp. What she failed to tell anyone is that both she and her husband are retired Yarmouth school teachers. Of course she supports the budget. LOL Who does she think she’s fooling? LOL

          • YarRes

            BTW, I’ve had next door neighbors “from away” who’ve been on both ends of the spectrum. One had the quintessential approach of newbies; the other was just as normal and down to earth as you could hope to find. It’s not all newbies,just some.A few bad apples ruin the bunch. And just remember, you introduced the term “newbie” into this conversation. 🙂

    • truther

      I’m sorry but this argument doesn’t really work for me. If people move to Yarmouth specifically for the schools then what’s wrong with them being front and center in discussions about the school budget? It’s like being surprised if Tyler Technologies or Garmin (nee DeLorme) have strong opinions about easy access to Route 1 and I-295. Other residents of course have every right to offer whatever opinions and budget constraints they want but when you have an asset that draws people to your town those people are going to speak up about it.

      And the age-old advice still applies — if old-timers don’t want these newbies coming in and messing things up, don’t sell your houses to them. Don’t add an extra couple hundred grand onto your asking price, laugh all the way to the bank, and then complain about it.

      • EABeem

        There’s always been a sense that recent arrivals have less right than old timers to voice an opinion. It’s part of Maine’s provincialism. Those of us who moved to Yarmouth in the 1980s heard the same thing — “You’re taxing us out of our homes.” But there are other forms of property tax relief than short-changing the children.

        • YarRes

          Ed,the children aren’t going to be short-changed. Ninety two percent of the budget increases are going to wages,salaries,and benefits. That mean only 8% is going to “the cause”.

          • EABeem

            Wages, salaries and benefits are what enable good school systems like Yarmouth’s to attract and retain good teachers.

      • YarRes

        I’m sorry,but your circular logic doesn’t work for me. If an old-timer sells to a newbie and then laughs all the way to the bank, he’s not going to be here to complain about the taxes.Think things through,truther,before you put ink to paper,or fingers to keyboard.

        • truther

          Yes, how could I forget. If you sell property in Yarmouth then poof! you instantly disappear. If you downsize, or subdivide your land, or rent your camp to summer tourists for $1000 a week, you are banished instantly, condemned to spend the remainder of your days wandering the wastelands of Cumberland County bringing The Law to the savages of towns like Cumberland, North Yarmouth, Pownal and Freeport.