Yarmouth seeks increased awareness about school budget

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YARMOUTH — The School Department has released a schedule for next year’s budget process so residents can be well-informed of when they can learn about the budget and offer their input.

The School Committee will be holding a series of meetings starting Jan. 26, 2017. The schedule was released early, Superintendent of Schools Andrew Dolloff said, so residents can be informed of the proposed budget and the process by which it is approved.

“We are making an even greater effort this year to ensure that all community members know when and where they can go to have input into our budget process,” Dolloff said.

Earlier this year, there was an unprecedented debate around the school budget. The fiscal year 2017 school budget of $23.1 million had an increase of almost $1.1 million, or 4.97 percent, over the prior year’s budget.

It was approved by voters at the annual Town Meeting and at referendum, both held in June, but faced steep opposition during the budget process. Throughout April and May residents filled the Log Cabin for discussions. “Yes” and “no” signs were displayed on properties all over town, and an organized opposition group called the Yarmouth Tax Study Committee actively opposed the budget’s passage.

However, many residents didn’t attend meetings until the process was nearing an end and Dolloff last week said he heard complaints that people weren’t well informed about meetings.

He said “community participation has been low,” but the School Department would like to change that.

“We are hoping to include more people, and more ideas, in the process by notifying the community of the multiple opportunities they have always had, as well as adding a few more chances for them to share their thoughts,” Dolloff said.

Dolloff on Jan. 26 will present an overview of the proposed fiscal year 2018 budget to the School Committee. Budget workshops will be held Jan. 30 and Feb. 6. The School Committee will have a first reading Feb. 9 and a second reading March 9.

On March 16, the proposal will be presented to the Town Council, which will hold public hearings April 6 and May 4.

All meetings will be held at the Log Cabin on Main Street.

The proposed budget will be voted on at the annual Town Meeting on June 6 at Frank Harrison Middle School, and will go to referendum June 13.

Dolloff said he hopes more people will participate in the budget process than in the past.

“I am hopeful that we’ll have a lot of meaningful input into the budget process this year,” he said. “In the end, the schools belong to the community, and it is the community’s values that determine the level of programming we can provide for the students.”

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

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.