Calais voters will turn out once again to signal their approval or disapproval of the school system budget amount of $8,379,834 recommended by the Calais City Council. The second referendum validation vote is set for Tuesday, August 27, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and will be held at the city building.
While the school budget, if approved by Calais citizens, will require at least $500,000 in cuts to the school system, interim Superintendent Ray Freve suggested during an August 8 school committee meeting that turning down the budget for a second time at the validation vote might start to cause more harm than good. "If it doesn't pass, they'll have to have another budget vote and referendum. The impact of waiting longer will be increased costs to us." The reason, he explained, is that many school employees have 90‑day termination clauses. The longer the school committee has to wait for the termination to take effect, the higher the cost to the school.
New school committee member Bob Greenlaw said, "I just don't see the city giving us any more money." On that note the committee went through a preliminary list of potential cuts totaling $432,438. However, Freve noted that he still needed to review potential cuts for transportation, maintenance, peripheral cuts and capital outlay.
The largest cut of $90,761 would be gained through a four-day school‑wide furlough encompassing two student days and two staff development days. Other line items include: a middle school teacher position, currently unfilled, $40,572; the truck driving program, $20,024; assistant principal, $40,000; librarian, $50,000; some of the music program, $56,365; one and one‑half art teaching positions, $105,177. Costs include salaries and benefits. Additional areas that the committee may consider for cuts include: the yearbook, National Education Association dues, drama, freshman through senior class advisors, boys and girls 7th and 8th grade basketball and a few additional line items.
Originally, the school board had recommended to the council a budget allocation amount of $1,951,000 for a total school budget of $8,938,989, which the council rejected, recommending an allocation of $1,309,167. However, at the first school budget validation referendum vote held on July 9, residents turned down by a vote of 238 to 55 the city council's budget allocation number. At a July 16 public hearing on the municipal budget, the Calais council approved an increase of $106,826 in the city's local share for the school budget, for a total amount of $1,415,993, which would increase the local tax rate by two mills, from 23.3 to 25.3.