BELFAST — City councilors appointed Martha Proulx to the Regional School Unit 71 Board of Directors at their Feb. 15 meeting. The seat was vacated last fall by Charlie Grey.

Proulx has worked for the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Child and Family Services since 1985. She holds a master’s degree in social work from the University of Maine. As the child welfare liaison to native tribes, she has worked to strengthen relationships between the tribal child welfare agencies and the state’s child welfare agency, according to her resume.

She also worked to improve a number of programs and policies within the department, including developing policies and practices for Maine Caring Families, a foster care program. She has presented new department policies and processes to the state Legislature.

Councilor Neal Harkness said he was disappointed in the lack of understanding the five applicants seemed to have of the budgeting process. He was dissatisfied with their answers regarding reapportionment of the school budget, but hoped Proulx would consider how seriously the council takes budgeting.

“I have to say, they all had some very serious shortcomings, to me, on some major issues,” he said. “We heard a lot of great talk about things they’d like to do as far as programming and methodology. None of them seem particularly prepared for the financial aspect of the job.”

In previous discussions, councilors have expressed concern over how much the city pays toward the school budget relative to other district towns. Some of them feel the share of the budget paid by the various towns should be reapportioned

While Councilor Mary Mortier thought the group of applicants was the strongest in her time on the council, she also said their understanding of the budget was not as through as she would have liked. Proulx was the only candidate willing to consider the reapportionment issue.

“This was the strongest group of candidates for any position we have interviewed for in my time on the council. They were all impassioned, passionate candidates to serve in this capacity,” she said.

Councilor Brenda Bonneville moved to appoint another applicant before councilors approved Proulx; her motion was voted down by Mortier, Dean and Hurley. All five councilors then voted to approve Proulx.

In other business, councilors approved a proclamation against antisemitism. Harkness said he brought the proclamation to the council because he is hearing about more cases of hate crimes against the Jewish community in the media. “This council has taken moral stands in the past, and I think it’s time we take one now,” he said.

The Anti-Defamation League tabulated 2,107 incidents of antisemitism in the United States in 2019, a 12% increase from the year before, and the highest number of incidents recorded in one year since the organization started tracking incidents in 1979, according to its website. In 2020 and 2021, it tabulated 12,347 incidents of extremism or antisemitism in the United States.

The proclamation reads in part, “The Belfast City Council reaffirms that Belfast is, and will remain, a welcoming community for people of all races and religions, creeds and cultures. We stand with our Jewish friends, neighbors and family members, and with all who are targeted by bigotry and prejudice.”