RSU 13 voters add funds to budget
Regional School Unit 13 voters May 27 agreed to add $72,000 to the budget with hopes the board will reinstate industrial technology and library positions.
The total budget of $27,175,985 will now face a final vote by residents in Rockland, Thomaston, South Thomaston, Owls Head, Cushing, and St. George at the polls Tuesday, June 10.
With the added money, the budget still remains about $51,000 less than this year's budget. However, taxpayers will still see about a 4 percent increase in taxes due to less-than-anticipated revenues in carryover and a decreased amount expected in state subsidy.
About 60 people attended the meeting at Oceanside High School East, which lasted about two-and-a-half hours.
Under state law voters could only add dollar amounts to the budget and not demand it be used for specific items, but meeting attendees made it clear they would like to see the board add the industrial technology and library media specialist positions back to the budget. Board Vice-Chairman Loren Andrews of Cushing said he would bring it up as a motion at the next full board meeting, which is Thursday, June 5.
Skylar Prior, a sixth-grader at Thomaston Grammar School, told the crowd that students will be disappointed if "tech ed" is no longer available.
After a lengthy discussion, in a close vote of 32 to 28, residents amended the regular instruction budget by $42,000 for a total of $10,979,537. Later in the meeting, voters authorized adding $30,000 into the student and staff support budget by another close vote of 33 to 28. That total budget is now proposed at $2,661,056.
If approved by voters, the budget breaks down by town as follows:
Rockland — $8.02 million, up 5.08 percent or $387,888
St. George — $4.4 million, up 7.28 percent or $299,806
Thomaston — $3.4 million, up 5.22 percent or $167,422
Cushing — $2.7 million, up 6.37 percent or $163,052
South Thomaston — $2.6 million, up 1.82 percent or $46,369
Owls Head — $2.5 million, down 2.95 percent or $74,977
Another topic of discussion was the food service budget. Interim Superintendent Michael Wilhelm has previously said he anticipates an $100,000 overrun in the food service budget and suggested placing $170,000 into the account for the coming year.
Arvilla Collins, who is a former board member from Thomaston, made a motion, which was later defeated, to add an additional $50,000 to the budget to cover overruns in the program.
"If we do not put money in this budget to support it, we are going to keep going behind," Collins said.
Rockland board member Esther "Tess" Kilgour said that the budget is going to run $80,000 to $100,000 over in this year's budget and the district is still negotiating teacher contracts. She said $220,000 is a more appropriate figure to add to the budget.
Wilhelm said state officials are expected to visit the district in June to see what can be done about the program.
"Until we know we have efficiencies in place we can't keep adding to the black hole," Kilgour said, noting the deficit will only grow larger in the coming years.
Board member Donald Robishaw said the food service debt will be $350,000 by the end of this year.
"Virtually every school in Maine supports [the food service budget] with local dollars, very few are self-supporting," Wilhelm said.
Ultimately the motion to add $50,000 failed with a vote of 34 to 27.
Voters at the meeting were required to sign in with their town clerk and receive a ballot in order to vote, but several people arrived late and the clerks had already left. After several votes were taken to allow the latecomers to participate in the voting process, Kilgour made a motion to restrict voting by anyone that arrived late. Kilgour said the meeting was well publicized and people should have been on time. Voters turned down the motion, stating everyone has a right to participate in the voting process.
Courier Publications Copy Editor Kim Lincoln can be reached at 594-4401 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.