Voters in the Morning Sentinel circulation area decided a host of local issues at the polls Tuesday. In addition to congressional primary races and statewide ballot questions, voters decided on town warrant budgets and school district budgets, chose candidates for state Senate and the state House, and elected school board members and selectmen.
CLINTON AND FAIRFIELD
Instead of holding in-person annual Town Meetings, the towns of Clinton and Fairfield opted to put their warrants on the ballot at Tuesday’s state primary election.
The decision to forgo the traditional meeting format was brought on by the restrictions on large gatherings that the state implemented due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Under strict health and safety guidelines, voters in Fairfield made their way to the polls, where they approved a $2.2 million budget with several large expenditures, including:
• $1,238,808 for the Police Department.
• $981,803 for the Fire Department.
• $1,250,300 for Public Works, Cemeteries and Parks departments.
• $947,359 for general government.
The budget is 1% less than last year’s according to Town Manager Michelle Flewelling.
Flewelling said the exact reason for the decrease is hard to pinpoint, but mostly comes from the decrease in debt service payments and the cost for the municipality to dispose of its trash.
Clinton voters approved a $2.8 million budget, with $1.1 million to be raised through taxes. The approved budget is an 8.6% increase to current spending and includes large expenditures such as:
• $401,365 for Fire and Rescue.
• $345,108 for administration.
• $320,458 for the Police Department.
• $287,027 for the transfer station.
• $200,000 for road paving.
Several factors have contributed to the budget hike, including increased costs related to the Waterville dispatch contract, employee benefits, workers’ compensation insurance, tipping fees and hauling contracts for trash, building and grounds at the transfer station, and paving projects on four roads.
Voters also authorized the town to transfer $50,000 in undesignated surplus funds to convert town streetlights to more-efficient LED fixtures.
Geraldine Dixon was elected to serve on Clinton’s Board of Selectmen for a three-year term, beating opponent Ed Blanchard 303-298. Blanchard had served on the board for nine years. With 481 votes, Brian Bickford was reelected as a selectman for a two-year term against write-in candidate Michael Hachey, who garnered 69 votes.
Both towns approved the 2020-2021 budget for Maine School Administrative District 49, which also serves the towns of Albion and Benton.
SAD 49 BUDGET
The $27,843,591.11 budget passed 1,456-921. Unofficial results in individual towns in SAD 49 were: Albion, 242 yes, 156 no; Benton, 283-177; Clinton, 360-238; and Fairfield, 571-350.
The budget was initially approved by the school board during a virtual budget hearing on June 18.
During last year’s budget season, the district experienced two failed referendums in June and July before successfully passing a $27.12 million budget in September 2019.
“We’re very thankful to the communities for the support,” Superintendent Roberta Hersom said in a phone call Wednesday. “These are challenging times all around for all of our community members and families … and we’re very thankful. (And) hopefully we can move forward to a brighter school year than how we ended this last one.”
The budget represents a $726,144.71, or 2.68%, increase to current spending. The increase is largely attributable to costs related to special education and to pay increases for district employees covered by union contracts.
Special education represents the largest increase in the budget, up 11.5% from current spending, with the total special education budget at $5,267,947.64.
Salary increases for unionized employees total about $307,000. Approximately 85% of staff in the district is covered by bargaining agreements, according to Jenny Boyden, chairwoman of the school board.
Other spending items that were approved in the budget were:
• $11,008,203.32 for regular instruction.
• $3,990,514.62 for facilities management.
• $2,560,318.45 for student and staff support.
• $1,884,715.70 for buses and other transportation.
• $1,479,637.55 for school administration.
• $947,151.59 for system administration.
• $705,102.24 for other instruction.
Questions related to a school nutrition program, adult education, an additional state subsidy and a capital reserve fund were also approved by the towns.
Richard Andrew Foss Jr. defeated opponent Edward Cohen in Tuesday’s primary to run as the Republican candidate for Maine House District 109 in November against state Rep. Bruce A. White, a Democrat who now holds that seat.
Foss, a Waterville city councilor, defeated Cohen, 190-89. White, a member of the Waterville Planning Board, ran unopposed in Tuesday’s primary.
In Vassalboro, voters approved the proposed school budget by a 624-124 vote.
Newcomer Barbara Redmond was elected to the Board of Selectmen for a three-year term. Erin Loiko will return to the School Committee and be joined by Zachary Smith. Loiko and Smith garnered 582 and 557 votes, respectively. Two seats were up for grabs in the primary.
In Winslow, the school budget passed 1,207-315.
SAD 54 Superintendent Jon Moody said that unofficial results show voters from Canaan, Cornville, Mercer, Norridgewock, Smithfield and Skowhegan approved the proposed $36.6 million budget, a $101,000 decrease from the previous fiscal year, with 2,193 agreeing and 961 disagreeing.
“It took a great deal of work from many people (school board, administrators, teachers, etc.,) to develop a responsible budget that both reduced the impact to our local property taxpayers and was down overall,” Moody said. “It’s rewarding to see that our communities were so supportive of this budget at the polls.”
In Skowhegan, voters selected four of five candidates to fill positions on the SAD 54 Board of Directors: Jeannie Conley polled 884 votes; Annmarie Dubois 863; Derek Ellis 708; and Margaret ‘Peggy’ Lovejoy 771.
On the Board of Selectmen, Charles Robbins III won a seat over incumbent Gene Rouse with 848 votes.
In Anson, which is part of RSU 74, residents voted 217-164 to approve the proposed $10,372,521 budget, which Superintendent Mike Tracy said is more than $120,000 less than the previous fiscal year.
“After three years working in the school district, I am proud to say we are stabilizing financially and the proposed budget is down more than $120,000 under this current year,” he previously said in an email. “We continue to work to bring the best education that we possibly can while being mindful of the taxpayers’ ability to pay.”
SENATE DISTRICT 4
In state Senate District 4, which covers Piscataquis County and parts of Somerset and Penobscot counties, incumbent Paul T. Davis, R-Sangerville, received 68.6% of the vote, winning the Republican nomination. He will face David Ziemer, D-Orneville Township, in November.
“I am very pleased,” Davis said.
A former Maine State Police officer, Davis has served on his town’s school board and board of selectmen and has held office as a state representative and a state senator.
If reelected, he said that revenue would likely be at the top of the list of challenges he may face.
“Without a doubt, there are going to be revenue problems,” Davis said. “You can’t shut down every restaurant and hotel/motel in the state and not have them get a sales tax.”
Davis said if revenues fall short, he will fight to avoid an increase in property taxes.
“Through my experience, I know how the government works and how to make things happen,” he said. “I’ve passed a lot of good legislation while being deep in a minority.”
He cited an instance in Dover-Foxcroft, where he helped license an employee who came to work in Maine from New Brunswick. He worked closely with Democrats to make this happen.
“The young man had been an audiologist in New Brunswick for about 10 years, came to Maine and they wanted him to have an apprenticeship,” he said. “At the time the House (and Senate) were mostly Democrats, and the governor was a Democrat. We all worked together and we got it fixed up, and he’s been in business for quite a few years.”