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Municipalities Oppose Measure Governing Extra State Subsidies

AUGUSTA, Maine - A state senator from South Portland is proposing a measure that would allow cities and towns to ask residents how they might want to spend any extra state school subsidies before the subsidies actually materialize.

Every city and town has its own school budgeting process, and many do not coincide with the state's budgeting process. That means that many municipalities must approve school budgets before they know exactly how much money their schools will be getting from the state.

Sen. Rebecca Millett, a Democrat, says when the state finally determines the subsidies, cities and towns are often forced to go back to the budget drawing board.  Her bill would authorize school districts to issue a warrant article asking residents in advance what they would like to do if the state sends their school boards more money than they're anticipating.

"This language will help communities be more clear about the options available to them and allow their citizens to decide how to proceed should additional state funds be made available to their district," Millett says.

But Kate Dufour, of the Maine Municipal Association, opposes the bill. "What this bill does, in our estimation, is just says there is only one thing you can do with unanticipated state aid, and that is to spend it in that school district in that budget year," Dufour told the Legislature's Education Committee.

Dufour said a municipality should have the ability to decide how it wants to use any extra money from the state and not automatically have it go to the schools.