When President Obama came to office he inherited the Great Recession and a needless Iraq war.

In the past 14 months, he has had to try to haul the country out of the hole that had been dug for the prior eight years.

The Regional School Unit 13 board is also facing a multi-front crisis.

The district is facing a massive financial crunch. The sharp drop-off in revenues is due to a few factors. The state is giving the district fewer dollars because of the Great Recession and also because the state funding formula is based largely on two-year-old property values and this region is considered wealthy with those criteria. In addition, when Maine School Administrative Districts 5 and 50 formed, the consolidation plan called for giving all the surplus back to the municipalities.

The surplus has been used in past years to cushion tax increases. This year, there is no cushion.

Thus comes the proposed budget that calls for reducing spending by more than $2 million to equal the revenues that will be available. This will result in the elimination of more than 20 teaching positions, more than 20 support staff jobs and many stipend positions.

Faced with this dire scenario, the school board has agreed to consolidate the district’s two high schools (Georges Valley High School and Rockland District High School) in the fall of 2011.

This is being done as both a money saving step and a way to try to produce a better education for the students in the six communities.

Last week the state released a report that showed how individual Maine schools had performed in reading and math for the past three years – two cornerstones of education. The news was not good for the district. The three-year average score for Georges Valley High School was the 41st worst in the state. Rockland District High School was 69th from the bottom.

And to top it all off, even with the major cuts being proposed to the board, Rockland residents will be required to raise an additional $573,000 in property taxes compared with the current budget. Per capita, however, South Thomaston will be hit the hardest with the town expected to raise an additional $291,000.

Former Rockland Mayor Hal Perry, who works at Rockland District High School, appeared before the Rockland City Council this week to say how unacceptable it was for Rockland to be faced with such a significant increase.

The City Council will begin its budget deliberations in a few weeks. Before councilors even get their first look at the budget, they are facing a $573,000 tax increase to Rockland residents because of the school budget. That increase amounts to $113 a year for a person owning a home assessed at $150,000.

St. George residents will see a $390,000 decrease in the school tax. While that would seem to be good news, the most criticism of the school district is coming from St. George. The anger stems from the proposal to combine the high schools. Some people in St. George had never been happy being part of the SAD 50 school system and are even more apoplectic over the possibility that their children will have to travel an additional three miles and have different school colors, a different mascot, and perhaps new school names.

Many in St. George, and some from the other communities, have asked that they be allowed to vote on the consolidation. The board refused to allow that, pointing out that state law gives them that sole authority.

So all these issues are coming together to create one of the most tumultuous times in the history of education in the region. Even when the SADs were created in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the controversy was not this great.

The big question is how will the public react to the proposed budget when it gets its hands on it. The budget process goes to a district-wide meeting on June 1. An organized group could try to pack that meeting to add back in items that have been cut.

But that budget will then have to go before all voters at the polls in the six communities on June 8. Rockland and South Thomaston residents are unlikely to support a plan that hikes their taxes even more at a time when many are either still out of work or experiencing a pay cut.

At last week’s meeting, Rockland District Middle School Librarian Ellen Spring suggested that all employees take a 5 percent pay cut to avoid the massive layoffs. I swear you could hear crickets chirping after she made her comments. Later in the meeting, the board voted to freeze the pay of non-unionized workers, including many administrators. Of course, these administrators have seen healthy increases during the past year.

If the board is not willing to cut pay of non-unionized workers, it is likely not asking its unionized workers – including teachers – to take a pay cut.

Of course, the public has no clue as to what is happening in those labor negotiations. Officials won’t even publicly comment on whether they would ask employees for the negotiations to be done in the open – which is allowed by state law if both sides agree.

Where this will end is anyone’s guess. But this is the not-so-perfect storm.