News Feature

Originally published in Castine Patriot, March 9, 2023
All articles pass at Penobscot town meeting
GSA tuition passes by slim margin

by Will Robinson

About 60 people came to the gym of the Penobscot Community School on the evening of Tuesday, March 7, for the annual town meeting. The Penobscot select board, the school board and School Union 93 Superintendent Reg Ruhlin announced the results of the referendum election and presented 15 school articles and 49 town articles to the voters in attendance. By the end of the two-hour meeting, the three unopposed candidates were sworn in and every article was approved.

This year the school budget was, according to Ruhlin, up about 6 percent from last year, which he attributed to an increase in staff pay, additional health benefits and the rising cost of food, fuel and electricity. The voters of Penobscot approved the entire school budget proposal with very little opposition or contention.

Select Board Chair Harold Hatch announced that the total town budget was only up $1,700 from last year and that the town had about $1.4 million in “unappropriated surplus.” Hatch explained that the select board is trying to look forward financially, with the expectation that things will generally get more expensive but that this year they might not have to spend all the money allocated for certain projects.

The townsfolk expressed their appreciation for the select board who, according to the treasurer Amy Dunn, do more work for less pay than almost any of the dozens of towns she’s worked for.

“There is not enough money in this town to pay them for all that they do for us” said one resident.

After a round of applause, Hatch responded, “We value the people in our town, and we like what we do.”

All of the warrant articles were passed as written in the town report, with the exception of article T13 regarding a $4,000 donation to the Blue Hill Public Library.

Nicolas Lindholm, a Penobscot resident, asked why the town report didn’t include the requested sum of money sent to the town by community organizations like the library. Another resident, Amanda Prouencher, added that the Blue Hill Public Library had actually requested a $4,384 donation to the town based on the number of active Penobscot library cards.

When Lindholm made a motion to raise the amount in the article to the amount in the request, he was told by moderator Sherman Hutchins that voters may only move to reduce the amount in an article, not raise it.

After some discussion between the select board and the moderator, it was determined that technically, because of the wording of the article, voters could raise this particular amount. Linholm’s motion to raise the donation from $4,000 to $4,384 was approved, and the article was passed without further discussion.

Additionally, the results of the referendum vote, which took place on March 6, were announced. Phil Rapp was sworn in for another three-year term on the select board along with school board candidates Charles Brenton and Tanya Astbury.

The George Stevens Academy supplemental tuition request, which totaled $45,900—or enough for 27 students at $1,700 per student—passed by a vote of 95-89.