A $22.1 million proposed budget was formally adopted by the Regional School Unit 40 board at its meeting April 11.

The art and music positions were reinstated to half-time each and the Dessert Theater program was added back in to the budget for a total increase of $26,000. Initially the board sought a zero percent budget increase.

The occupational therapist position held by Kathy Cartwright was not added back into the budget, despite much support and debate.

After a one hour closed-door session, board members voted not to add the position to the budget. The job was not included in the budget, but several people attended the meeting rallying to include it once again.

"My main concern is for the kids," said Cartwright, who has one more year until retirement, but found her occupational therapist position left out of the budget.

Cartwright has been with the RSU 40 for 22 years.

"Fairness promotes unity," Cartwright quoted in her address to the board.

Teachers, students and supporters filled the meeting room at Medomak Middle School. Teachers issued a "work to rule" order April 4. They have been working without a contract since October.

Of major concern to the audience was pending cuts to arts and theater, as well as the occupational therapy position not added to the original budget due to federal funding.

Seeking answers to pending cuts, the public was told by RSU 40 Board Chairman Danny Jackson that according to board policy, the board will give "due attention," but are not required to respond or take immediate action.

"I find it highly unusual when you have an audience of over 100 people here, and questions are not being answered," said Leila Percy of Warren.

"School board meetings are not a public forum," responded Jackson. "Policies are listed right on the website."

Participants seeking answers to their questions were advised to send an email to Superintendent Susan Pratt.

"Isn't it just fueling the fire by not answering questions?" asked Vannah Liberty of Union.

"It's not a question and answer period," stated Pratt.

As there is no place on the agenda for public questions and answers, it was recommended one be added.

The meeting lasted three hours and 45 minutes.

A special meeting will be held on Thursday, April 25 to sign the budget warrants.

Courier Publications reporter Beth A. Birmingham can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 125 or by email at bbirmingham@courierpublicationsllc.com.