St. George scolds RSU 13 board
Rockland — The chairman of the St. George Select Board criticized the decision by Regional School Unit 13 administration not to restore cut teaching positions following the passage of the school budget last month.
Bill Reinhardt told board members Sept. 5 it is a "slap in the face of the electorate" to ignore the advice of the voters.
After the school spending package failed to gain voter approval in June, the district learned it would receive an extra $343,000 in state subsidy.
In July, more than 100 residents attended a public hearing and voted to add the funds to the instruction line of the budget to restore cuts at St. George School and Oceanside High School East. The budget was later approved by voters at the polls Aug. 13.
A week later the district announced it would not reinstate the Oceanside art and social studies positions or the sixth-grade teacher at St. George School. A portion of the money was used for educational purposes, while approximately $200,000 was set aside to help offset the tax burden for budget increases in 2014-2015.
The lack of public participation is always a complaint by the district, Reinhardt said.
"Most citizens feel they are not truly listened to or considered and recent actions validated that," he said.
Residents attended meetings, went to vote, celebrated the passage of the budget and then were ignored, he said.
People are facing a fixed-cost dilemma every year because incomes are not matching what they are being asked to pay out. When compiling a budget the district looks at student need vs. tax burden, Collins said.
Collins said the district cannot take "soft money" to use for long-term positions.
"My job is to try and respect the community as a whole, but what I can't do is make a commitment that I will have to renege in five months," Collins said.
The superintendent said the district needs to begin searching for private funding to bring in more revenue and he intends to make it known to the Legislature of the low family incomes in this area compared to high property values.
Board member Donald Robishaw of Rockland said he lobbied for a grant writer position that could have brought money into the district, but it was cut during budget deliberations.
Board member Loren Andrews said he did not agree with the administration's decision.
"Voters voted and voiced their opinions twice at district meetings," Andrews said.
He said the board had a budget everyone was happy with, then learned of the additional state money after the fact.
"We really need to honor what voters did," he said, adding it sends a bad message to go in the opposite direction.
Reinhardt invited the administration to a town hall style meeting in St. George to have the superintendent describe plans to address proficiency and also how St. George and its facilities will fit into the consolidation plans. No date has yet been set for the meeting.
Courier Publications Copy Editor Kim Lincoln can be reached at 594-4401 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Kim Lincoln has worked for Courier Publications since 2003, serving as a reporter, assistant editor and copy editor.
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