Superintendent paints bleak budget picture
Rockland — Regional School Unit 13 Interim Superintendent Michael Wilhelm told board members April 3 the district has about a $2 million budget gap as officials begin to prepare this year's spending package.
Wilhelm said there is $938,000 less in fund balance or carryover from last year, $233,000 less in state subsidy, $3,000 less in interest generated from the fund balance account, and $55,000 less in other miscellaneous revenue.
In addition, there is a 7.5 percent or $300,000 increase in health insurance for next year, he said. The district is also in contract negotiations with both teachers and administrators and the potential increase is not yet known, but could be a $450,000 increase in salaries.
"I want to make you aware as we head into creating a budget," Wilhelm told the board. "We have to be careful how we approach this."
The superintendent questioned if it was reasonable to work toward the same budget as last year, which is $27.2 million.
If that were to happen, it would mean about a $1 million increase to taxpayers across the six towns, according to information provided by the district. St. George would see the largest increase at $374,230, which is 9 percent more than last year, while South Thomaston would see the least increase at $78,181 or 3 percent.
South Thomaston representative Christine Curtis said residents in her town cannot afford any more increases.
"They are being foreclosed on, they can't pay their taxes. I just don't feel like they can bear anymore," Curtis said.
Sally Carleton, of Owls Head, agreed. She said Owls Head had a revaluation last year that caused property tax increases and she has spoken with a friend in Rockland that uses one-third of her pension to pay for taxes.
"We are going to bleed," Carleton said.
St. George representative George Emery said he does not see much "fluff" in this budget. Two planned roof projects have been postponed and no new buses are planned for this year, e said. However, the parts budget for the bus repairs will double as a result.
"This is going to be very painful, but I trust our administration is not putting in fluff," Emery said. "I hate to say it, but we have to look at raising taxes."
Chairman Steve Roberts of Rockland said the city's mil rate is obscene and people are not going to want to move to Rockland if the mil rate is almost $20.
"It will effect the economy of this region if we keep going this way," Roberts said.
The district will hold several budget workshops during the next several weeks. The schedule is as follows:
Wednesday, April 9, 6 p.m. — Article 1
Monday, April 14, 6 p.m. — Articles 2 and 4
Wednesday, April 16, 6 p.m. — Articles 5-9
Tuesday, April 22 and Wednesday, April 23 — possible public informational forums
Monday, April 28, 6 p.m. — review and possible budget adjustments
Tuesday, April 29 and Wednesday, April 30, possible public informational forums
Thursdays, May 1 or May 8, 6:30 p.m. — board meeting to adopt budget.
Courier Publications Copy Editor Kim Lincoln can be reached at 594-4401 or by email at email@example.com.