LAMOINE — With nary a dissenting vote, just under three dozen voters approved a $2.9-million budget for the coming 2018-2019 school year at a special town meeting May 16.
The bottom line of $2,913,696 is up $228,520 (8.5 percent) over the current school year, which ends June 30. Superintendent Katrina Kane said the single biggest factor was an increase in the number of students in grades 9-12 who need to be tuitioned out to neighboring school systems with high schools: from 54 students this year to 63 in the coming school year. Lamoine Consolidated School serves students in grades K-8.
“We’re growing, and that’s great,” said Kane, “but with that comes an increase in tuition costs.”
The nine additional high school tuition students are one factor in pushing the secondary instruction expense line of the 2018-2019 budget from $623,469 to $774,078. That is an increase of $150,609 (just over 24 percent).
Voters had the most questions, however, about decreases in the budget. A line for a social worker position went from just over $27,000 to zero dollars, and residents asked what happened. School officials said they had hoped to share the social worker between Lamoine and Hancock Grammar School (Kane is superintendent of both), but that money for the position was not included in Hancock’s budget. Lamoine, in turn, was unable to find someone to fill the position on a half-time basis.
The Lamoine school nutrition budget dropped by more than $8,000 (17.7 percent) from $45,842 to $37,723. One resident worried what that might mean for students and the food they are served. School officials explained last year’s budget was higher than usual in order to purchase freezer equipment and to do the necessary electrical work to hook it up. The lower figure for 2018-2019 is essentially a return to normal, they said.
Residents had to vote on 14 separate articles, broken down by cost centers outlined by the state, in order to approve the school budget. Most carried with a simple voice vote, and the three that required show-of-hands votes all passed 31-0 as counted by moderator Stu Marckoon.
The school budget will now go for final approval at a validation referendum vote when residents head to the polls on Primary Day, Tuesday, June 12. Voting takes place at the Lamoine town office that day from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Following the school budget articles, voters approved several ordinance changes. The first was to replace a table with requirements for lot size standards and setbacks in the Building and Land Use Ordinance. Planning Board Chairman John Holt said the existing table was “difficult to clearly understand and apply,” and that the board spent “considerable time” working to “rid this table of these mistakes.”
One of the changes was to define the minimum front yard setback for a home lot as 75 feet from the centerline of a given road, rather than 50 feet from the edge of the right of way. Holt noted that different roads have different right-of-way widths and said that presented a “practical difficulty.” He said the new measurement requirement will make it easier for everyone to apply the standard.
Another change was to modify a requirement for every lot to have a minimum of 200 feet of road frontage to say that each lot located within 200 feet of a public road (and accessed from that road) must have a minimum of 200 feet of frontage on that road. Holt said the way the standard was written, it prevented some residents from being able to build on their lots (particularly lots with narrow frontages). The new standard will not apply to homes built on and accessed from private roads.
School Board Member Gordon Donaldson, a former Lamoine Planning Board member, spoke in support of the change and called it a “real step in the right direction.”
“It allows people to use property that they’ve purchased,” he said.
Changes were also made to the town’s Gravel Ordinance at the May 16 meeting. Voters approved a change that will require gravel pit owners to do any proposed restoration work on previously excavated areas in a pit within one year of getting a permit from the town.
Holt explained the existing requirement was that owners do such work within one year of work commencing in the pit. He said there was frustration among Planning Board members that restoration work was not always taking place as it should have been. He said residents want to see such work done, too.
“The overall concern here is that restoration seemed to be a very important area for people here in town,” Holt said. He said the new language in the ordinance is “a little stronger” and “a little tougher.”
Pit owners in town learned of the proposed ordinance change prior to the May 16 vote, Holt said, and just that knowledge seemed to have a bit of the desired effect.
“The very fact we’ve brought it up, we’ve already seen some hastening of restoration happening,” he said.