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.

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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.
  • Mainer1

    Awareness is school attendance is in decline but teacher’s union has all the power and will be forever asking for more taxes

    • David Craig

      I think you meant enrollment, not attendance. Actually, Yarmouth school enrollment is increasing. Here are the year by year numbers:
      2009: 1392
      2010: 1396
      2011: 1403
      2012: 1422
      2013: 1458
      2014: 1475
      2015: 1520
      2016: 1579
      As you can see, enrollment is increasing at about 3.5% annually for the past two years. The Teacher’s Union doesn’t ask for more taxes. The Teacher’s Union negotiates a contract with the School Committee and Superintendent, the salaries go into the budget presented by the School Committee to the Town Council, and the voters ultimately decide at the town meeting and then at the polls to approve or reject the budget. It’s democracy.

      • Laurie Hegarty

        Does Yarmouth really care about enrollment? I am a Chebeague resident. I have tried multiple times now to get out of having to send my kids to Yarmouth. Chebeague pays $9-10K in tuition to send a Chebeague student to Yarmouth per year. However, if the Chebeague student wants to go somewhere else, whether it be Greely, Freeport, NYA, or wherever, Chebeague pays $0 toward that students tuition. The parent has to pay it all themselves. The contract between Yarmouth and Chebeague is exclusive, according to their legal team anyways, which means Chebeague can only tuition students to Yarmouth. The contract does not have to be exclusive however. If Yarmouth really cares about enrollment, why not tell Chebeague that they are free to tuition students to other places? Or if a Chebeague student wants to go somewhere other than Yarmouth, the current contract gives Yarmouth the power to deny enrollment due to over-crowding or over-enrollment of certain grades. Then, the town of Chebeague would have to tuition the student somewhere else. There are a number of Chebeague students that don’t want to go Yarmouth, but because of this exclusive contract/tuition issue, they are stuck. Why not let these students go? There are not enough years on the contract for these Chebeague students to even graduate, plus there is a clause that says a Chebeague student could get kicked out of Yarmouth with 9 months notice. Not everyone on Chebeague feels Yarmouth is the best fit for their kid, especially under these terms. Don’t force nonresidents to attend Yarmouth schools, and if they choose another school, don’t punish them by allowing their own town to take the student’s allotted tuition money away.