Paris selectmen narrowly approve placing school warrants on ballot

·3 min read

May 11—PARIS — Irked by the amount of the proposed Maine School Administrative District 17 budget, the Select Board expressed its frustration Monday by narrowly approving placing the school warrants on the ballot.

What is normally a rubber stamp procedure to place the measures on the ballot for voters to determine, the board voted 3-2 with selectmen Scott McElravy and Peter Kilgore opposed placing the warrants on the ballot. Chairman Christopher Summers, Carlton Sprague and Michael Bailey voted yes.

The $47.4 million budget for MSAD 17 will be decided at the polls June 13 in the towns of Paris, Norway, Oxford, Waterford, Hebron, West Paris, Otisfield and Harrison.

The warrants include the school budget, the technical school and a referendum to spend nearly $900,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds to replace a double-wide portable building at Roberts Farm Preserve in Norway.

McElravy attended a public forum on the school budget last month.

"I was probably the most vocal, but I wasn't the only one who suggested that they needed to understand the pressure put on towns, understand how it is affecting our budgets and understand the effect on our taxes by the schools," McElravy said. "It was like it was falling on deaf ears, in my opinion. No matter what was said, there was always an excuse why they couldn't do this or why they couldn't do that."

He called the funding MSAD 17 is requesting "crazy money" and felt that they were just submitting numbers that officials wanted without looking how to save money.

"I asked some difficult questions," McElravy said. "It was like they were just going through the motions, in my opinion. I don't feel they were listening to the pleas. I wasn't just pleading for myself, I was pleading for Paris residents. I don't feel I was heard. I think they considered me a nuisance."

Summers pointed out that school officials were paying a half million dollars for a modular classroom facility at Otisfield Elementary School for up to 38 students. Several select board members said that amount was substantially higher than it should cost. It was also noted that the MSAD 17 directors accepted the higher of the two bids for a ramp ($38,700 compared to $32,000) at the new school.

Sprague added that the school budget comprises 58% of the total tax bill that Paris residents pay.

"Unless the taxpayers as a whole get together and stand firm, it's going to keep ongoing up," McElravy said.

Bailey added that even if Paris residents vote no, the budget will still pass if the other seven municipalities support the budget.

Before the vote, Summers told his colleagues that this is merely a rubber stamp. The board needed to simply pass the three warrants onto the voters, who get the final say. A yes vote did not mean they supported the proposed budget. Despite that, McElravy and Kilgore voted no.

In other business, the board reapproved the town warrants, after including an additional $15,000 to the general assistance account to $38,240, following consultation with the state.

"It's precautionary to make sure we don't go into the red on this line," Summers said.

Wendy Williams was added to the Norway-Paris Community Television committee.

A Meet the Candidates night will be held Thursday, May 18, at the Fire Station beginning at 6 p.m., Town Clerk Elizabeth Knox said.