Hermon residents vote at Hermon Elementary School. Credit: Ashley L. Conti

Four candidates are running for three seats on the Hermon Town Council in the June 14 election in one of Bangor’s fastest growing suburbs, where councilors have recently clashed over the school budget.

The three seats are held by councilors John Snyer III, Anthony Reynolds and Charles Lever IV.

Snyer is the only one of the three seeking a second term. Reynolds, 66, is running for school committee after one three-year term on the council. Lever is not seeking reelection.

Richard Cyr, 70; Derek Wood, 46; and Eric Russell, 31, also are running. Cyr and Wood participated last week in a forum for council and school committee candidates sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Greater Bangor.

Snyer, 52, and Russell did not attend the forum and did not respond to requests for comment.

Several questions from residents who attended last week’s forum were about the council’s strained relationship with the school committee over the school department’s proposed $17.64 million budget that would have increased property taxes by an estimated $150 per year on a home valued at $300,000.

Last month, the council voted 4-2 to reduce the school budget by $100,000. Snyer voted for the cuts. Cyr and Wood said that they also would have voted with the majority.

The school committee is expected to discuss the budget at a meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Hermon High School auditorium. Residents will vote on the town and school budgets at the annual town meeting on June 16.

The number of students in Hermon schools has increased as more families have moved to town. Enrollment this fall is expected to rise by 25 students at the high school, which students from Levant and Carmel also attend; by one student at the middle school; and by 10 students at the elementary school for a total of 1,389. That’s an increase of 109 students over the 2018-19 school year.

Another issue of interest to voters is what kind of growth the town council should encourage. The growth in school enrollment is due in part to an increase in the number of subdivisions approved by local planning boards in Hermon, Levant and Carmel.

Cyr and Wood both said that residential growth needs to be balanced with the growth of businesses and industry, which may mean expanding local business parks.

Wood said that a casino would not be the kind of business the town would want to recruit, in contrast to businesses and manufacturers similar to Puritan Medical Products, which significantly ramped up production at facilities in Guilford and Pittsfield recently to supply swabs for COVID-19 testing.

Cyr said he was not interested in seeing solar farms take up open space in the community. He said more businesses like a John Deere dealership located on Outer Hammond Street near the entrance to Freedom Industrial Park should be recruited.

Both men agreed that senior living communities should be welcomed.

“We need to continue to support sustainable and responsible growth,” Cyr said. “That’s what’s kept our [tax] rate so low.”

The tax rate this year in Hermon is $11.99 per $1,000 assessed valuation, lower than in most surrounding towns. The tax rate in Bangor, for example, is $22.30 per $1,000 assessed valuation.

That low tax rate is one of the reasons Wood and his family chose to move to Hermon 11 years ago, he said.

“We were attracted to the rural nature of the community and the good schools,” he said. “The mill rate was less in Hermon, and that sealed the deal. A lot of young families are making that decision now, and one of the ways to attract them is a competitive mill rate, but we need to expand the industrial parks.”

The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. June 14 at the Patricia A. Duran Elementary School gym at 235 Billings Road. Absentee ballots may be requested from the town clerk’s office until June 13 but must be returned before the polls close on Election Day.