Voters approve $4.3M school budget

TRENTON — Voters at a special town meeting Saturday approved a $4.3 million budget for the current year. 

The budget is $290,000 higher than the budget for the previous fiscal year, which ended June 30. The majority of that increase, $194,550, is to cover this year’s higher special education costs. 

The new budget raises property taxes by 9.9 percent, or $108 per $100,000 of property valuation. 

The Board of Selectmen had already set the tax commitment for the current year, based on the higher school budget, but the school could not spend the additional funds until the budget was approved at Town Meeting. 

Voters on Saturday rejected two articles that the selectmen added to the school budget warrant two weeks ago. 

The first of those new articles asked if voters would increase the school’s budget by $65,000 to pay for roof repairs. The selectmen recommend that $45,000 of the additional amount be taken from the Maintenance Reserve Account and $20,000 from Unassigned Funds. 

But in response to an inquiry by school Superintendent Marc Gousse last week, an attorney for the school system issued an opinion that a “yes” vote would not require that the extra money be used for roof repairs. Greg Im, an attorney with Drummond Woodsum, a firm that represents a number of school districts in Maine, said in an email to Gousse that the Trenton School Committee is solely responsible for maintaining the school property and administering the budget. 

“Neither the town meeting nor the Selectboard can require the School Committee to make specific expenditures,” Im wrote. 

The second article the selectmen added to the warrant asked if voters wanted to withdraw from the 2012 agreement with all the other schools in the Mount Desert Island Regional School System. Under that agreement, each school contributes annually to a fund that individual schools can borrow from in the event of catastrophic special education costs. 

Im said in his email to Gousse, “The terms of the agreement do not allow for any of the nine member school units to withdraw from the agreement or to have contributed funds returned.” 

Saturday’s town meeting, held outdoors at Trenton Elementary, was a special town meeting for the sole purpose of voting on school budget items. All other warrant articles will be voted on at a town meeting that is yet to be scheduled.  

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the annual Town Meeting was postponed from May 19. 

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]
Dick Broom

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