RSU 40 voters send 2.47 percent increased budget forwardReferendum June 10
Union — At a districtwide budget meeting May 27, more than 50 voters approved the Regional School Unit 40 2014-2015 budget as presented.
The proposed $22.7 million budget is a 2.47 percent increase instead of a perceived 3.37 percent increase over last year for voters — made possible primarily by bringing $200,000 of MaineCare expenditures and reimbursements into the general fund balance, according to Business Manager Karla Miller.
The five-town breakdown of contributions is:
— Friendship, $1,721,612, up 2.01 percent or $34,006 from last year
— Union, $1,961,883, up .11 percent or $2,061
— Waldoboro, $4,560,645, down 1.3 percent or $60,254
— Warren, $3,503,654, up 3.39 percent or $114,754
— Washington, $1,295,527, down 1.12 percent or $14,692
The budget reflects funding for two pre-kindergarten programs — one each at Warren Community School and Miller School, a teaching principal at Friendship Village School, along with numerous shifts.
"The administrative team worked hard to maintain current programming while reallocating resources to better meet the needs of our students," stated Interim Superintendent Michael Cormier in a prepared letter.
Each pre-K program was designed to support up to 32 students, with two sessions of pre-K in each school. Students will attend two full days per week, and the teachers will work with the families on the fifth day.
"Research has shown that pre-K programs provide increased student performance, especially in the lower grades," stated Cormier.
It is the board's goal to offer pre-K available in all five elementary schools within RSU 40, however this introductory program will offer the opportunity for students from Friendship, Union and Washington to attend the Warren and Miller school programs.
The budget includes monies for a teacher and ed tech at Miller School. The Warren pre-K program is financed through the reduction of one fourth-grade teaching position at Warren Community School.
Also money from a fifth-grade teaching position at Warren Community School will be reallocated to hire a Literacy Interventionist to assist teachers in grades four through six at that school.
As every school in RSU 40 has some item to be repaired or replaced within its structure, the amount of $200,000 was included in the budget.
Cormier explained in his letter there are two things that impact the amount of money received form the state — one is town valuation and the other is enrollment.
"The district saw a decrease in town valuation of 1.83 percent while the overall state valuation was down 2.09 percent," noted Cormier. This means increased costs to the towns.
The continued decline in enrollment also impacts state funding, but Cormier noted the pre-K program should actually help increase that number for future years. In fact, Warren's increased percentage of 3.39 is due to increased enrollment, whereas the remaining four towns have seen a decline.
"Last year Friendship saw the greatest increase and Union experienced a decrease," noted Cormier, adding, "These fluctuations are out of the control of the district Board of Directors."
Resident Nancy Curtis expressed concern that the amount budgeted for special education — $4,103,274 — was nearly half the amount budgeted for regular instruction.
Cormier explained that of the approximate 1,880 students in the district 23 percent or 347 receive special education services.
"This is very high, but these are necessary increases and ones that the district is obligated by state and federal law to support," said Cormier.
In the budget packet, Miller provided a comparison of RSU 40 and other local districts of average per pupil expenditures. RSU 40 expenditures are the lowest at $11,990, followed by RSU 13 at $13,025, RSU 28 at $15,795, and Five Town CSD at $16,991.
She also compared the per pupil subsidized operating expenditures which ranked all 220 school systems in the state, with number one spending the most and 220 the least. RSU 40 ranked 112, well below RSU 13 at 58, RSU 28 at 36, and Five Town CSD at 25.
The state average cost per subsidizable pupil was $10,021 - RSU 40 was close at $10,168, RSU 13 was at $11,777, RSU 28 at $13,223, and Five Town CSD at $14,156.
"So, my conclusion is that the Board of Directors has done a great job being fiscally responsible in proposing budgets that meet the needs of children and take into account local financial struggles," Miller concluded.
At the referendum vote Tuesday, June 10, voters will be asked to answer either "Yes" or "No" to the question asking "Do you approve the budget that was adopted at the Regional Budget Meeting on May 27, 2014?"
Courier Publication reporter Beth A. Birmingham can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 125 or via email at email@example.com.
594-4401 ext. 125
Beth rejoined Courier Publications' news staff in February 2013. She previously worked at The Courier-Gazette from 1981 to 1990.
Her coverage area includes Warren, Union, Friendship, Waldoboro, Washington, and Thomaston and RSU40.
Beth has a passion for photography, and a degree from the University of Maine at Augusta, in affiliation with the Maine Photographic Workshop in Rockport.
Aside from photography, Beth enjoys running and walks along the waterfront, as well as other outdoor activities. She has a daughter, Claire, who is 14.