On Tuesday evening (June 3rd) the Millinocket council held its FY 2009 Budget Adoption Meeting. First on the agenda was the school budget and what a fiasco it was.
Councilors were asked to vote on a newly revised budget (and I do mean newly) that the School Board had decided upon that very same afternoon the councilors were to vote. Needless to say, the councilors had no copy at hand of the new budget although they has seen a previous draft.
The superintendent spent much of her time running back and forth from her seat in the audience to the councilors with the new budget along with an analysis of the old vs. the new and many non-explanations as to the changes. Late last fall or early in the spring, this superintendent, who covers both Millinocket and East Millinocket was given a vote of no-confidence by the staff of both towns. It was quite evident why this was so.
The final draft submitted to the Millinocket council, totals about $7,600,000 for the approximate 530 students that will be attending next year. This averages out to something like $14,000 per student, well over the state average cost per student; and if accepted by the public it will mean a 2 or 2.5 mil increase in our taxes, at a time when we can ill afford it.
Just when we thought things couldn't get worse, at the end of the School Budget meeting, Shelly Farrington was supposedly overheard telling a school bus driver that she should run Mr. Hopkins over with her bus the next time she sees him. Is that how an elected official should deal with another elected official simply because they do not agree with them?
This comment was heard by a number of people still in the audience therefore it would lead some credence to it actually happening. Now it is one thing for board members to disagree but is it really necessary to stoop to that level?
Where was Tom Malcolm, chairman of the school board, when this alleged comment took place.? Shouldn't he be called to task for allowing this to happen without at least a reprimand of Ms. Farrington and an apology from Farrington to Mr. Hopkins? Poor Ms. Farrington may think she can do or say anything she wishes. "Move forward with us or get out of the way" is a quote that comes to mind when she was editor of the defunct Community Press. And let's not forget her father is Avern Danforth an ex-councilor who failed in his reelection attempt. In addition, her articles in the Lincoln Press have come under criticism, however for an ELECTED official to act in this manner is quite unexceptable and in my opinion reprehensible.
Back to the budget. To ask the Millinocket taxpayers at this particular time with the probability of our mill shutting down, the high cost of heating oil, the high cost of gasoline and the increase in food prices, is absolutely ludicrous. Especially in a basically retireee town.
Unfortunately tough times require tough decisions and they don't get much tougher than what our town is facing. Millinocket should be looking at long term changes such as closing its Granite St. School facility and/or a partial consolidation with the town of East Millinocket. Dismissing the current superintendent who still has not been able to account for last year's budget might well be a good place to start.
Tuesday June 10th you will be asked to vote on a referendum worded as follows:
"Do you favor approving the Millinocket School Department budget for the upcoming school year that was adopted at the latest Millinocket Town Council school budget meeting and that includes locally raised funds that exceed the required local contribution as described in the Essential Programs and Services Funding Act?"
"A YES vote allows for addition funds to be raised for K-12 public education"
"A NO vote means additional funds cannot be raised for K-12 public education"
To further explain:
A YES vote will increase your taxes to support the proposed school budget.
A NO vote will force the school to live within its current budget with no additional funding from the public.
For those of you who may have already read this please: NOTE THE DATE CORRECTION. THE VOTE WILL TAKE PLACE JUNE 10TH (not the 19th as previously posted.