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Board fails by a vote to pass budget

After two months of deliberation, the Lewiston-Porter School Board on Tuesday was unable to muster the four votes needed to adopt the 2007-08 district budget.

The board voted 3-to-2 in favor of the proposed $38.4 million spending package but needed another vote from either Louis M. Palmeri or Leonard Palumbo, who were unable to be at the session.

Board members Edward M. Lilly and Scott Stepien brought the motion to adopt the proposed budget to a halt, opposing it for being a bit too much for taxpayers to handle and feeling there were more areas where cuts could be made.

The situation forced Board President David S. Schaubert to schedule an emergency board meeting for 1 p.m. Saturday in the district's Community Resource Center to consider the matter again, even if it means adjusting budget allocations to make it satisfactory to a board majority.

Schaubert said the board has no choice but to adopt a budget by Saturday or it will be in violation of state law.

Schaubert said he was somewhat perplexed by the no votes because the board and the district administration under Interim Superintendent Don W. Rappold have been working with figures and analyzing district needs. It held four public budget sessions to make a thorough review of things to come up with the package. If there were problems, he said, they should have been ironed out before Tuesday's vote.

The proposed budget exceeds the current $37.8 million budget by $646,722, representing a 1.71 percent increase in spending.

When asked how much the average school district budget appears to be going up this year, Rappold told Schaubert "over 3 percent."

Schaubert said the tax levy under the proposed budget would rise by $273,832 or by 1.25 percent. Because of a 1.11 percent increase in value of property in the district, he said the average tax rate increase in the towns of Lewiston and Porter would come to .13 percent.

In the end, he said the tax rate would go up in Lewiston by 18 cents per $1,000 assessed property value and decrease by 30 cents per $1,000 in Porter.

Lilly, however, felt that employee contracts were too costly and there should have been more cutbacks. He said taxpayers can't afford it.

Stepien criticized Schaubert for spending money on legal opinions in a couple of instances when he felt it was not necessary. Schaubert said as a responsible board president he did it on certain issues "so we can make good, informed decisions" on proposals like making district employees have random drug tests.

There was a lot of debate, but Lilly and Stepien could not go along with the budget.

One board member indicated the pair might have been more liable to consider the budget if they had been at all four open budget sessions. "We are still spending more than we should," Lilly said. "Maybe we can continue to squeeze the taxpayer more" until there's nothing left.

Schaubert said he believed it was a fair budget, planned with the district's future in mind.

e-mail: pwestmoore@buffnews.com

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