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Rockland area school budget to be released next week

By Stephen Betts | May 21, 2020
A Zoom meeting of the RSU 13 Board from earlier this year.

Rockland — The Rockland area school district was projected to receive an additional $1.1 million in state aid for next year before the economy crashed under the weight of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Now the Regional School Unit 13 Board is mulling how much money to expect in state revenues as it prepares to act on a 2020-2021 budget.

Superintendent John McDonald plans to submit his proposed budget to the board Thursday, May 28. The board is then expected to vote on the budget Thursday, June 4.

A referendum on the budget will go before voters July 14. Details on how voting will be done is uncertain. Absentee ballots are available and can be mailed to residents who request them.

The superintendent said the districts across Maine have not been informed by the state on how public budget votes, prior to the referendums, if they are to be held.

The current 2019-2020 budget is $31.2 million.

McDonald told board members at their May 21 online meeting that he wanted a budget that would have as little impact as possible on students and programs. The school district has made significant improvements in graduation rates, reduced drop outs and increased number of honor students, the superintendent said, and he did not want to change that trend.

"We know the economy is in a dire strait, Needless to say, taxpayers are hurting," McDonald said.

Business Manager Peter Orne said before the economy cratered, RSU 13 was projected to receive an additional $1.1 million in additional state revenues. Now, he said, the district may receive no additional money.

Several possible reductions were listed by Orne, including $340,000 from eliminating positions that will become empty through retirements. That includes one administrator post, two to three teaching positions and two educational technicians.

Field trips and stipends could also be cut. Orne said with the uncertainty of the fall sports season, athletic stipends could be cut.

Additional cuts of $194,000 from operations of buildings and transportation could also be made, the business manager noted.

The board was also told by the administration that the district needs to address the extraordinary increases in health benefits.

The board went into a closed-door executive session at the end of the May 21 meeting to discuss contract negotiations.

Before the board went into the session, Board Member Doug Curtis of Rockland said the the board would be asking the staff to do something but did not elaborate.

"We have to make some hard decisions," he said.

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Comments (1)
Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | May 27, 2020 09:02

"Hard decisions" is right Doug.  Now that the Districts plan of bussing students all over the county to various NEW school building and calling this "consolidation", your plan is now pretty much "out the window".  How are you going to bus all those students "under the new social distancing rules" and putting students in overcrowded classrooms ?  To add insult to injury, whatever you do don't you dare to raise the budget even a penny.  This is certainly a fine mess you've gotten us into.  My worry is that parents are going to discover the whole stay at home schooling plan is working out better and achieving better results than sending their kids to school.

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