RUMFORD — Residents of 12-town RSU 10 passed a $36.5 million budget Thursday night, after more than three hours of discussions, arguments and amendments.
More than 100 residents of RSU 10 slogged through the 15 articles that comprised the proposed 2013-14 budget of $36.5 million Thursday night.
Sumner resident Tom Standard made an amendment for almost all of the articles that would have reduced that particular line. However, each time, the vast majority denied the amendment and instead, approved the school board's recommendation.
He said the amendments were made to reflect the state's Essential Programs and Services cost estimates.
Rumford resident Candace Casey, followed a short time later by Mexico resident Randy Canwell, attempted to dispense with votes on the final few articles because they said it appeared that none of the items would be reduced.
Casey said the those attending the districtwide vote Thursday night might as well vote down the proposal that night, because she said it would be voted down at referendum next week.
“Our towns don't have budgets. We'll go through this again and again, and that costs money,” she said.
Rumford Town Manager Carlo Puiia, who leads a town that has yet to approve a municipal budget, said he wanted votes on each article.
“Personally, I would like to hear each article,” he said.
Dixfield board member Barbara Chow said, legally, each article must be voted on.
Standard's amendments, to reduce each article to the state's Essential Programs and Services amounts, prompted Canton board member Faith Campbell to ask him whether he knew what the district's 2,769 students would lose if such a budget was adopted.
Former RSU 10 Superintendent Tom Ward, who helped develop the budget that current Superintendent Craig King must now try to get adopted, said teacher and educational technician to student ratios would rise drastically, extra-curricular activities would virtually be eliminated, and much of the district's transportation program would be cut.
Several RSU 10 staff members also told about some of the ways they tried to reduce costs to the district.
Teacher Beth Poulin said staff has taken furlough days, reduced or eliminated budget requests, and pay higher health insurance premiums.
Nearly 70 positions have been eliminated since RSU 10 was formed four years ago, saving member towns more than $3 million dollars, Ward said.
He also said that if the budget fails next week at the July 30 referendum, the district would operate on the figure arrived at Thursday night until a referendum vote passes a budget figure.
Voters turned down the first proposed budget at the June 11 referendum by about 30 votes out of more than 3,000 cast. That proposed budget was $36.2 million. The higher proposed budget this time around is the result of the state mandating that all districts pay a significant portion of the amount of teacher retirement costs that had been paid by the state. For RSU 10, that figure is more than $468,000. An additional state aid amount of $345,000 was also received, and the board reduced about $128,000 from the proposed budget.