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Thomaston helps propel Rockland area school budget to passage

By Stephen Betts | Jun 11, 2019
Photo by: Stephen Betts Voting on the RSU 13 budget takes place June 11 in Rockland at the Flanagan Community Center.

Rockland — The proposed $31.2-million budget for the Rockland area school district squeaked by thanks to Thomaston despite a hefty tax increase.

The budget was approved district-wide by a vote of 608 to 590.

Rockland voted 123 to 164 against the budget. Cushing opposed the budget, 38 to 56.

But Thomaston, which had a large turnout because of municipal ballot questions, supported the budget, 357 to 305.

Owls Head supported the budget, 57 to 41. South Thomaston supported it, 33 to 24.

The 2019-2020 budget had been recommended by the residents at the May 23 district-wide meeting in the amount of $31,176,500, which represents a 7.3-percent ($2.1 million) spending increase from the 2018-2019 budget. The uptick is because of a $1.4-million rise in special education costs and significantly higher health insurance costs for employees.

Superintendent John McDonald said last month he hoped that layoffs could be limited by people retiring or taking other jobs, but 13 positions were cut. Those included three pre-kindergarten teaching positions, two pre-kindergarten educational technicians, and an administrative assistant post for pre-kindergarten — all based at South School.

The district is contracting with Penquis to operate the pre-kindergarten program at South School for next year. McDonald said it would be up to Penquis whether to retain the district employees.

Other positions being cut include a middle school science teaching post, a third-grade teaching post at Ash Point Community School in Owls Head, a half-time social studies position at Oceanside High School, an administrative assistant at Ash Point, an educational technician at the library, and a part-time educational technician position at Ash Point.

Other positions being cut — which are either vacant or will be vacant through retirements and resignations — include two math positions at the high school, a fourth-grade teaching position at South School, a second-grade teaching position at Thomaston Grammar School and a middle school Spanish position.

The budget does not include any money for a school resource officer.

Even with the cuts, however, a major tax hike looms.

Rockland will still see an increase of more than $1.1 million. This means a person owning a home assessed at $150,000 will pay about $230 more just from the school budget.

The second school budget article on the ballot asked residents whether they wanted to continue the two-step budget approval process of holding a district-wide meeting and then a referendum or only the district-wide meeting. That article was approved 787 to 390. Thomaston supported it, 436 to 216; Rockland, 196 to 86; Owls Head, 64 to 34; Cushing, 55 to 35; and South Thomaston, 36 to 19.

Seventy-seven people turned out for the district-wide meeting on May 23, while 1,198 people turned out to the polls on Tuesday, June 11.

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Comments (12)
Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Jun 13, 2019 08:40

Everyone should note that budget corrections were made by eliminating "teaching" positions.  George if you are concerned about our "commitment to education" I don't think getting rid of teachers is the way to achieve this goal.  We seem to have plenty of new buildings and administrators to manage them, but fewer and fewer teachers to teach.   Education does not happen without educators.  It's not a matter of "no child left behind", it's more a matter of "no teacher left standing"

Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Jun 12, 2019 13:07

Francis, things may change when people start limiting the amount of children they have.

Posted by: Francis Mazzeo, Jr. | Jun 12, 2019 12:23

State and Federal mandates, without their financial support, is what is running up the cost. Until the ones passing these mandates are made to contribute fairly, nothing will change.

Posted by: George Terrien | Jun 12, 2019 09:25

Thank you, Steve!  Very helpful.

The next cycle for the coming year promises difficult examination of complex questions about funding.  I hope our commitment to education--critically important for our collective future, at EVERY scale, will not suffer.  I am (and far from for one) grateful that we have a School Board and Superintendent and Business Manager who are up to doing the best that we can with meager and clearly strained resources, but underpinned by public support that in this vote yesterday appears at best lackadaisical.

Posted by: Ian Emmott | Jun 12, 2019 09:13

I'm pushing 5k in property taxes with our current mil rate formula when this goes into effect. From what I heard at meetings we can certainly expect special ed and insurance premiums to rise again next year, which is completely unsustainable. Augusta needs to tackle this complex issue and not the low hanging fruit to pander the base like I have read. School Board has a tough task ahead of them as they start another budget.

Posted by: Stephen Betts | Jun 12, 2019 09:02

George, I have added the outcome of the second article -- on whether to continue to use the current budget process -- to the news story.

Posted by: Stephen Betts | Jun 12, 2019 08:52

That article is required to be held every three years to determine whether we continue to use the two-step budget approval process of having a district-wide meeting followed by a referendum or simply the district-wide meeting. That article was overwhelmingly approved at the polls yesterday.

Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Jun 12, 2019 08:29

II am not sure George, but it would make sense that RSU administration is increasingly annoyed at the involvement of voters potentially interfering with the approval of annual school budgets.  Make it so we can pass the budget at a year end meeting stocked with teachers.  Eliminate the referendum portion of the process therefore simplyfing the budget approval.  Based on the indifference I see at the polls, I don't think there will be a problem.

Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Jun 12, 2019 08:21

Should be a good year to be in the Real Estate business.  Lots of new listings.  Good for the economy, as overburdened and frustrated Rockland taxpayers move out of town, opening up plenty of existing properties to be filled with a new crop of empty nesters from away with big checkbooks and lots of ideas of how to turn our quiet coastal fishing village into Connecticut.

Posted by: George Terrien | Jun 12, 2019 08:11

What were the results for the second question?  My curiosity springs partly from the lack of information and discussion before its revelation on the ballot.  I doubt that I was alone in not understanding the consequences of the question.

Posted by: Stephen Betts | Jun 11, 2019 23:43

Yes, story has been updated.

Posted by: Ian Emmott | Jun 11, 2019 22:00

Thomaston still not reporting?

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