2017-06-16 / Community

In the Know

– Compiled by Staff Writer Wm. Duke Harrington

VOTE RESULTS — In annual school budget validation votes Tuesday, June 13, turnout was low, but the result overwhelming.

In Cape Elizabeth, 56.1 percent of voters gave their assent to the proposed $24.9 million budget for the 2017-2018 school year. The final tally, according to Town Clerk Debra Lane, was 631 in favor and 487 against, with about 13 percent of registered Cape voters participating. Of those who made their way to the polls, 542 (or, 49.3 percent) deemed the budget “too high.” Another 400 (36.4 percent) called the spending plan “acceptable,” while 157 (14.3 percent) called the budget “too low.”

In South Portland, even fewer voters weighed in, creating an even more lopsided result. There, 5.8 percent of registered voters cast ballots, according to the count provided by City Clerk Emily Scully. Of those who cast ballots on the school department’s $48.9 million budget, 905 (or, 76.2 percent) gave a thumb’s up, while 283 voted no. Unlike Cape, South Portland does not poll voters for guidance on whether they found the too high, too low, or just right.

In the only local election on the ballot, voters in both South Portland and Cape Elizabeth endorsed the candidacy of Matthew Beck, the only candidate running, to represent their interests on the Portland Water District Board of Trustees. Beck will fill out the remainder of an unexpired term, serving until November 2019.

The ballot also featured one statewide referendum question, which sought approval of a $50 million bond, touted a tool for economic development and jobs creation.

In Cape Elizabeth, 70.3 percent of voters favored the borrowing proposal, 784-331, while over in South Portland 74.3 percent said yes in an 878-302 count. Statewide results were not available Tuesday evening. Municipal Clerks have three days to report unofficial results to the Secretary of State’s office.

BON-TON GONE — The Maine Mall is losing one of its anchor tenants, with Bon-Ton Stores Inc. announcing it will pick up stakes by the end of August. The retailer was much heralded when it moved into Maine four year ago, filling the 120,800-square-foot space that had been vacant since 2006 when Filene’s left.

Bon-Ton reportedly signed a 15-year lease on the space and is obligated to continue paying rent through 2029, unless it and mall owner, Chicago-based GGP, can reach terms on a sub-lease or other means of terminating the contract. A GGP spokesperson has declined to comment on the development. JC Penny, another large mall tenant facing similar revenue woes nationwide, has a lease on its space said to expire in next summer.

DISCIPLINE REVIEW — Following a series of closed-door meetings held prior to its regular meeting Monday, the South Portland Board of Education has decided it is time to review its potentially redraft school department policies regarding student discipline.

The school board first went into executive session to consult with its attorney Peter Felmly, of Portland firm Drummond Woodsum. Superintendent Ken Kunin declined Tuesday to divulge the topic of that conversation, other than to confirm it was related to the second executive session. In that one, the board closed doors to “hear a complaint about school personnel.” Kunin declined to say if “personnel” referred to multiple people or a single employee. He also refused to say what type of employee or employees was the target of the complaint – a teacher, administrator or some other staffer – what school was involved, or whether the complaint was filed by a student, parent, school employee, or some other person.

“The board takes all complaints about school personnel extremely seriously and holds all employees accountable according to school board policy and trying to do what is in the best interest of the students and the staff,” he said.

The board took no action in regard to the complaint, Kunin said, but did decide to examine whatever part of the student discipline policy was at the heart of the issue.

“The board did decide to direct the policy committee to review the school department policy and procedures regarding student discipline and investigate to see if it needs to be modified in any respect.”

Asked why the student discipline policy may need to be amended when the complaint was against a member of the school district personnel, Kunin said, “It is the personnel that is responsible for applying the policy.”

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