Yes-or-no vote at the polls on June 12

Rockland-area school budget sails to passage

By Stephen Betts | May 24, 2018
Photo by: Stephen Betts Thirty-seven residents of Regional School Unit 13 turned out Thursday evening, May 24, at Oceanside High School to overwhelmingly adopt the 2018-2019 budget. The budget now goes for a yes-or-no vote June 12 at the polls in the five RSU 13 communities.

Rockland — The $29 million proposed budget for the Rockland-area schools gained nearly unanimous approval Thursday evening, May 24, at a district-wide meeting attended by 37 residents.

The turnout was nearly double the 19 people who voted on last year's Regional School Unit 13 budget.

The final action on the 2018-2019 budget will be at the polls June 12 in Rockland, Thomaston, Owls Head, South Thomaston and Cushing.

The overall budget was approved 35-2 at the district-wide budget meeting held at Oceanside High School's auditorium.

A few residents questioned the spending.

Rockland resident Ian Emmott voiced concerns about rising taxes in the city and that slightly more than half that money was because of school expenses.

"I'm almost priced out of town," Emmott said, pointing out that he has no children in the schools.

He asked why the costs for English as a second language had increased so dramatically and why the gifted and talented costs had increased 10 percent from last year.

Emmott also said the content of labor contracts should be made known to the public before they are approved by the school board.

Superintendent John McDonald said the district had seen the number of students for whom English is not their first language triple in the past few years. Business Manager Peter Orne said he had spoken with business representatives, who say they seek to attract foreign workers who come here with their children.

That cost is going from $93,000 during the current school year to nearly $177,000 for 2018-2019.

The gifted and talented program has expanded to meet the needs of students, McDonald said. He said the state reimburses the district for those expenses.

The superintendent said state labor law does not allow labor contract negotiations to be open to the public.

Rockland resident Doug Curtis Jr. expressed concerns about costs and asked why the district was providing transportation for Rockland students who choose to be educated at schools in Owls Head and South Thomaston.

Resident Bill Bachofner said it is scandalous that the federal government handed out tax cuts while not paying for necessary education services mandated by federal law.

RSU 13 only receives about 20 percent of its revenues from the state, while nearly all the rest comes from local property taxes.

The $29,035,000 spending package for 2018-2019 is up 7.9 percent ($2.1 million) from 2017-2018.

A significant portion of the increase is due to debt repayment. RSU 13's share of debt repayment for the under-construction  Mid-Coast School of Technology is $536,000.

Other factors behind the increase in the RSU 13 budget are $825,000 in wage increases resulting from labor contracts approved over the past year between the board and workers. Benefit costs -- largely health insurance -- are up $565,000.

The budget also includes $127,250 for an additional pre-kindergarten class.

Another $220,000 of the increase is for special education staff added during the current school year that were not in the 2017-2018 budget and will continue in the budget for 2018-2019.

The proposed budget will require an additional $1,180,000 from the municipalities of RSU 13.

Rockland would be required to pay an additional $347,000 (for a total of $9,353,101); Thomaston would pay an additional $342,000 (for a total of $4,417,339); Cushing an additional $180,000 (total of $3,387,546); South Thomaston an extra $182,000 (total of $2,862,603); and Owls Head $129,000 (total of $2,850,124) more than 2017-2018.

The budget adopted Thursday night goes before voters Tuesday, June 12, at the polls in the five communities for a yes-or-no vote.

If rejected, the process would start again with the administration proposing a budget, the board voting and another district-wide meeting and vote at the polls.

Comments (1)
Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | May 25, 2018 08:52

I stopped going to these meeting because this is always the outcome.  We complain about taxes at the coffee shop but no one comes to voice their objection.  Hopefully you will vote on June 12.  Soon only the 1% er's will be able to afford to live in this city.  All the locals will be pushed out.  Then Rockland will become another Grenwich Conn.

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