The Regional School Unit 13 board may try to shift money around to save some programs at the expense of others, but appears to have accepted that the 2010-2011 budget will not exceed the $26 million recommended by Superintendent Judy Lucarelli.

That budget would eliminate 21 teaching positions, more than 25 support staff positions, several administrative posts and 24 stipend jobs.

The board met April 12 to continue its review of the proposed expenditure budget presented two weeks ago by the superintendent. The board had earlier directed the superintendent to develop a budget that would increase property taxes overall in the district by no more than 3 percent. Her $26,090,000 budget met that directive.

At the end of the April 12 meeting, Board Chairwoman Ruth Anne Hohfeld of South Thomaston asked if the board would accept keeping the budget at that level. No one objected.

“Our total expense dollars will not change,” she said. “All we can do is shift – internally.”

Board member Loren Andrews of Cushing said he would like to see money moved to save the Janus program, which serves as an alternative education program for five RSU 13 students. The program operates out of the Mid-Coast School of Technology and is run by the Five Town Community School District, to which RSU 13 pays tuition.

Several students and a parent spoke at the April 12 meeting about the importance of the program. Lucarelli said the district could provide a similar service for less money but supporters of the program said the students are more comfortable in the current arrangement.

Two parents also spoke in support of reversing budget cuts to the district’s gifted and talented program. Cindy McGuirl asked that cuts be made instead to non-instructional accounts and that the $55,000 cut from the gifted and talented program be restored.

Board member Brian Messing of Rockland said he was concerned about the ability of one teacher to handle the number of students in the gifted and talented program.

The board has met three times on the budget. The next session is scheduled for Wednesday, April 14 at 6 p.m. at the McLain School at the intersection of Lincoln and Summer streets in Rockland.

Tentative approval of the budget is scheduled for a meeting Monday, April 26 at 6 p.m. at the McLain School. The formal approval of the budget that will go to the public is scheduled for Thursday, May 6 at 6:30 p.m.

On Tuesday, June 1 at 6 p.m. in the auditorium at Rockland District High School, the district-wide public budget vote will be held. At this meeting, a majority of people at the hearing can make changes to the budget.

Then on Tuesday, June 8, the polls in the six communities of RSU 13 (Rockland, Thomaston, St. George, Owls Head, South Thomaston and Cushing) will be open and residents will decide on the one question on the ballot — whether to accept or reject the budget approved at the June 1 meeting.

If approved, the budget will go into effect. If it is rejected, the process will start again with the board to consider whether to make changes and then there will be a public meeting vote followed by another single-question referendum.

This process will continue until the budget is approved at a referendum.

Despite reducing the budget by $2 million, Rockland and South Thomaston would have to raise substantially more in property taxes to pay for the education costs.

Rockland would have to pay an additional $500,000 in taxes for the $26 million budget and South Thomaston would have to raise about $250,000 more. Other communities would see a slight increase or would pay less. St. George, for example, would be taxed nearly $400,000 less in the next school year than during the current school year.

The superintendent said last month that her main priority in making the cuts was to protect as many classroom teaching positions as possible. The classroom teaching positions that are in the proposed list of cuts are being eliminated because the district agreed to increase class sizes. The superintendent also said last month that she would recommend changing the course requirement for students to graduate to be in line with the state’s requirement. Since the district had been requiring more courses this would allow some of the teaching positions to be cut.

Classes at the high school with fewer than 10 students, if not required, were also used to determine where staff cuts could be made.

The teaching positions that would be eliminated include ones in kindergarten, second grade, third grade and fourth grade at the South School in Rockland. Art, English and math teaching positions at Rockland District High School are also on the cutting block.

A gifted and talented district-wide teaching post would be eliminated as would positions for an alternative education teacher at the middle school, an elementary librarian and a social worker — all in the former Maine School Administrative District 5 schools.

A computer education teaching position, a junior journey post and a vocal music post would be either eliminated or reduced under the proposed cuts at Georges Valley.

And in sports, cheer leading at Rockland District High School and Rockland District Middle School would be eliminated. The coaches for the cheering squads appeared at the meeting to voice support for the cheering program.