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Alyce Maragus

Millinocket School Budget: Public Hearing
Jun 16, 2009 - 8:59:34 PM

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For only the second time in memory, the Millinocket taxpayers will be allowed to vote on their school budget. There is a referendum scheduled to be held on June 23rd. This referendum is NOT about consolidation. It is being held to determine whether or not the tax-payers support the current school budget. If defeated, the school board will be forced to go back to the drawing board.

On June 11th the Millinocket Town Council met to approve or turn down the School Budget and ultimately the budget passed with a 4-3 vote. As usual, the school was well represented, but bear in mind, that by and large, this is the only time we see school members in attendance. What a farce. But it can be fixed with your vote on the June 23rd referendum.

Terry Given gave an almost tearful plea for the passage of the budget. She even mentioned that the town was holding the "children" hostage. My perception is that the school board is holding our town and the taxpayers hostage and using the children as the hostages.

Arnold Hopkins, previous councilor and teacher with over 40 years in the system and a current school board member, adamantly explained where cuts could be made and where department expenditures were being over estimated. Maybe we should listen to him since the school board simply ignores anything he has to say.

During the budget process it was discovered that the school has a surplus of $300,000. from last year's budget. In layman's terms that means the school system asked YOU the taxpayers for $300,000 more than they really needed.

Our council demanded (?) that the school return that money to the taxpayers by reducing their budget by that amount, and although the school board acceded to the council demands, still, they made no effort to reduce any other items in their current budget.

We have a reduced population and  reduced school enrollment. It is absolutely ludicrous that it costs $14,000 to educate a child in Millinocket when the average cost throughout the state is between $7,000. and $8,000. What is wrong with this picture?

In the good times, a high school was erected that could accommodate 1000-1200 students. There are now only slightly over 500 students in the entire system which includes elementary, junior high and high school.The taxpayers of our town can no longer afford to keep two schools up and running when one school can support our current enrollment.

No one wishes to see Granite Street School closed; however, consider the expenses of keeping it open. There is heat, electricity, phone, water, sewerage, maintenance of both the building and grounds and personnel costs.

Recently East Millinocket taxpayers had the foresight to vote down their school budget. This, even though it was approved by their selectmen and the public in attendance (mostly school personnel). I believe it is about time Millinocket voters did the same. There is discontent throughout the entire state and the country in general, with the way the education system is being run and the costs involved. Let's get on the band wagon and make the school system accountable instead of writing a blank check.

There are many reasons why people will not vote on June 23rd. High on the list is that many taxpayers aren't even aware of this referendum and many who are aware think it has to do with consolidation. Other reasons are apathy, ignorance, no time, too busy, children in the system, the elderly not being able to get to the polls (absentee ballots are available for those who wish them and can be obtained by calling the town office at 723-7000.) The bottom line is that YOU now have a chance to change all this and make the school officials go "back to the drawing board" and come up with a new budget.

We are a dying town. Without an up and running mill (no jobs), a reduced population (outward migration) and reduced school enrollment, this town can no longer support the school system in the manner it has previously done. If costs are not reduced this year, next year will be a catastrophe when the state reduces its contribution.

Please do your civic duty and get out to vote on your school budget.

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Alyce Maragus
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