Some of Maine’s biggest school districts to vote on Budget Validation process tomorrow.

Some of Maine’s biggest school districts to vote on Budget Validation process tomorrow.

May 10, 2010 Posted by Steve Bowen - 4 Comments

It is school budget approval time for many  school districts across Maine, which means it is time for voters to the head to the polls.  By virtue of a recent change in the law, all school budgets must go before district voters for final approval.

This year, though, an additional question will be on the ballot, asking voters whether they wish to retain the existing budget validation process.  Under the law, the question of whether to continue allowing voter approval of school budgets goes before voters every three years, and this is the third year.

Last week, voters in South Portland voted by a two-to-one margin to retain the budget validation process, a pattern I hope is duplicated again tomorrow as voters in Portland, Lewiston, Auburn, Scarborough, SAD 60 and SAD 52 all head to the polls to vote on school budgets and budget validation.

In research both this year and in 2008, we were able to demonstrate that the budget validation process brings real budget discipline to Maine’s schools.  The Portland Press Herald agreed in a recent editorial, saying “the most important part of the school budget referendums is the discipline they provide to the elected boards that approve budgets. School board members hear a lot from parents and from school district employees, but under the current law they cannot forget the people who have no direct connection with the system besides their tax bill.

Who would oppose the budget validation process? Typically, opposition comes from the various stakeholders whose power and influence would increase were budget validation eliminated.   In Bangor, for instance, School Committee Chair Phyllis Guerette evidently used a recent school concert as an opportunity to encourage Bangor voters to give up their right to vote on school budgets. We’ll have to wait until June to see if they wish to heed Ms. Guerette’s advice to disenfranchise themselves.

Even the legislature’s Education Committee was chomping at the bit to get rid of budget validation, that is until the committee got buried in calls and emails opposing their assault on voting rights. Being politicians, they folded instantly.

So, let’s hope that voters in those towns putting the budget validation process to a vote tomorrow make their voices loud and clear – keep the budget validation process and preserve our right to vote!