Let’s clear up a few things that have gone unremarked and unreported about the June 24 Regional School Unit 13 budget meeting.

1. The proposed increase in Rockland’s taxes was cut by two-thirds from the original budget proposed by the RSU Board — from $359,340 to $122,088.

2. The citizens of St. George who attended the meeting supported with near unanimity the recommendations of the RSU board to cut more than $160,000 in expenses.

3. Likewise the meeting also supported the recommendation of the RSU Board to use an additional $100,000 from the general fund to reduce the tax impact on citizens in RSU 13.

The budget meeting supported tax relief. What it did not support was the notion that every incremental dollar in revenue should go solely to tax relief. Those of us who attended the RSU budget discussions heard principals and teachers describe the difficulties and inadequacies of the budget proposals. The superintendent described the budget as “not optimal, but doable”. The vice-chairman of the board noted that the “fat had been cut, the muscle had been cut. We are now cutting the bone.”

That’s the background for the decision by the St. George Select Board to support using the increase in state funding for education, not tax relief. In more civil times and with more civil tones the decisions of the July 24 budget meeting would be described as a happy compromise — Rockland’s tax increase gets cut by two-thirds and the kids get the teachers they need. Mr. Pritchard’s suggestion that the motivation of St. George was to pass increase costs to Rockland and other communities is patently absurd. St. George currently pays nearly $14,500 per student in property taxes to support RSU 13. Rockland pays approximately $9,425. Our interest lies solely in supporting high-quality education for all the kids in RSU 13.

The shift in property taxes for education and the its effect on school funding has been a subject of discussion and concern in St. George for the past few years. (stgeorgemaine.com/documents/Town%20Education%20Committee/EducationalOptionsforStGeorge032513.pdf) We can find common purpose with Rockland in supporting the efforts of Superintendent Lew Collins to reform the formulae for the allocation of state funds. But, to the extent that the cost-sharing formula among RSU 13 municipalities contributes to the shift, we would remind Rockland’s leadership that this is what your city voted for. Despite analyses that showed Rockland’s taxes would increase, your representatives to the Reorganization Planning Committee that created the merger plan for SAD 5 and 50 unanimously supported the cost-sharing formula. So did your SAD 5 school board representatives. Rockland voters, by a significant margin, approved the merger plan and the cost-sharing formula.

We can begin to work together to figure out a better way to deal with these issues, but only if the leadership of Rockland is prepared to stop blaming others and accept its share of the responsibility for creating the current conditions.

Bill Reinhardt and Terry Driscoll

St. George