Board draws closer to adopting flat school budget

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DIXFIELD — All but one of the Western Foothills Regional School Unit 10 board members directed the superintendent to submit a proposed 2010-11 budget the same as this year’s.

Only Judy Boucher, Byron’s representative, wanted a figure less than the current operating budget.

“I’d like to see a 0.5 percent decrease. With 118 year ’round residents, that’s a big impact for Byron,” she said. “The economy is not reflected at all in this budget.”

Residents of this town would pay nearly $21,000 more in school taxes with a 0 percent budget.

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Proposed is a figure of $34,128,000, virtually the same as the current year’s.

At Monday’s board meeting, which is the last before the board officially adopts a budget for presentation to residents at a special meeting next Monday, Superintendent Tom Ward said the zero percent change means position cuts, and reductions in many other areas of the budget.

“If we cut another $500,000, that’s 20 more position cuts,” he said.

With the tentative 0 percent budget increase, 10 teaching positions and 10 educational-technician positions would be lost. Several support positions would likely also be eliminated. Those positions, as well as the others, would be specifically identified at the May 3 meeting.

Ward said the retirement incentive for eligible teachers announced at the last meeting netted four others who filed their intent to retire at the end of the current school year. Those bring the total number to 12.

Ward said with those additions, he doesn’t expect any teacher to lose a job. There will be some restructuring, however.

Board member Bruce Ross of Dixfield said he wants the impact of three possible budgets presented at next week’s meeting. In addition to showing the change in school taxes on homes valued at $100,000 with a 0 percent increase, he also wants to see what those figures would look like with a 0.25 percent increase and a 0.5 percent increase.

In a related matter, Ward said he is continuing discussions with the Peru Board of Selectmen for the possible use of the former Peru Elementary School as a school for all alternative education students attending the district’s three high schools.

“Our major goal is to meet the needs of all students,” he said.

Right now, Mountain Valley and Dirigo high schools offer individual programs. Buckfield High School does not offer an alternative education program.

In other matters, the board overwhelmingly approved the first reading of a policy that outlines requirements for secondary student participation in co- and extracurricular activities. This is the first such policy that will govern procedures for all three high schools.

Among the proposed procedures is one that allows sports or other activity participation if a student is passing five out of six courses.

Sumner board member John Phillips disagreed.

“Students should be passing all subjects,” he said.

The proposed policy, with possible changes, will come up again at the May 10 meeting for further discussion and possible adoption.

eadams@sunjournal.com

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