2017-06-08 / Editorial

School budget vote is next week, but why?

Legislative Lowdown
by Rep. Martin Grohman

The state of Maine approves its budget every two years. According to the constitution, that budget must be balanced. That means a compromise – matching spending to revenue – must be achieved in each budget cycle. In a less contentious political time, that deal was often worked out sooner, but now it is typically worked out at midnight on June 30, which is the last day of the state fiscal year.

However, school districts are required by the state to put their budgets to a public vote. The voting date this year is Tuesday, June 13, which creates an oddity in time – in order for citizens to vote, schools must have their budgets for the upcoming year set. However, schools do not know how much money will come from the state, since that decision will not be made for another two weeks.

The idea behind this added layer of voter approval, which began in 2008, was to increase public participation in the school budget process. That’s an important goal, but down the road, we need to look at changing the timing. It creates uncertainty in our school budgeting. Effectively, we must develop our school budget based on the low end of potential state funding.

Even so, I believe our superintendent and city council have done a good job developing a school budget. And it’s my hope that as in the last two budget cycles, once the state budget is set at the end of the month, there will be additional education funds directed to Biddeford – funds we can all agree are much needed and well-deserved. It’s an interesting topic, and in my column next week I’ll explore in more depth how the state’s school funding formula works.

While we’re talking about the election on June 13, I also want to call your attention to a $50 million research and development infrastructure investment bond that will also be on the ballot. If successful, it will raise $45 million for the Maine Technology Institute and $5 million for the Maine Venture Fund. Both are excellent programs. These are funds for investment in research, development and commercialization that enable organizations to gain and hold market share, to increase revenues and to expand employment or preserve jobs.

Whatever your stance on these issues, please go and vote, next Tuesday, June 13. All voting will take place at Tiger Gym at Biddeford High School. The polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. I hope to see you there.

Rep. Martin Grohman of Biddeford is serving his second term in the Maine Legislature. Outside the legislature, he is chair of the Solid Waste Commission, and hosts a podcast for entrepreneurs called The Grow Maine Show, which is available on iTunes. Sign up for legislative updates at www.growmaine.com or facebook.com/repgrohman

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