Community support for music prompts bank to donate $10,000 to schools

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FARMINGTON — The music director for the Mt. Blue Regional School District said on Friday the outpouring of support from the community and the work of the school board in support of the music program has been amazing.

First, the board this week voted to restore the third-grade string program that had initially been on the budget’s chopping block. Then on Thursday, Franklin Savings Bank offered a $10,000 challenge grant that would restore some of the music program’s $27,000 in cuts included in the 2010-11 budget.

“I am thrilled beyond belief,” said music Director Carol Shumway on Friday. “The generosity of Franklin Savings and the generosity and support from the community has been phenomenal. And the school board worked very hard with a very difficult budget.”

“This is a wonderful challenge to the community. It will mean support for that program, and music is very important to this community,” said Superintendent Michael Cormier on Friday. “It is very generous of Franklin Savings.”

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The donation is being offered through Franklin Savings’ Community Development Foundation and was announced by bank President and Chief Executive Officer Peter Judkins at Thursday’s school board meeting. The bank pledges to match every dollar donated by the community.

The gift was made prior to the board’s unanimous vote to set the $22.1 million budget. The spending package reflects a decrease of $1.5 million from the current year and a decrease in state aid of about $1.6 million. Municipalities in the district will see their total assessment increase by over $184,000.

Under the budget, 11 positions are being eliminated: Several represent jobs such as two librarians that will not be filled after the current employees retire this summer.

In the district music program, the budget eliminates $27,000 in operating costs including supplies, technology, fees and dues to attend music festivals.

“By making our gift a challenge grant, we can potentially bring in $20,000 to the program,” Judkins said in a prepared statement. “I’m hopeful that knowing that their donation is essentially doubled by the matching grant will encourage others to donate.”

“This is one of the finest music programs in the state,” he said. “Beginning in the third grade, our students receive an exposure to classical music and experience with a stringed instrument that they just wouldn’t otherwise get.”

In other budget matters, the board agreed to fund the newly-reinstated half-time strings instructor, a $31,000 expense, by reducing line items that are not expected to be needed, Cormier said.

They include tuition to a private school for special needs students; tutor wages; training for advanced placement teacher training; and equipment for the gifted and talented program.

Other budget cuts included are funding for freshmen high school football and basketball. The programs can continue but they will need to rely more heavily on donations, Cormier said.

The public hearing on the budget will be at 7 p.m. May 4 at the Mt. Blue Middle School. May 11 will be the district-wide vote at 7 p.m. at Mt. Blue High School, and the referendum vote to validate the budget will be May 18.

Mt. Blue Schools

Budget hearing and vote details

•May 4, a public hearing on the $22.1 million budget for Mt. Blue Regional School District will be held at 7 p.m. at the Mt. Blue Middle School.

•May 11, district-wide vote at 7 p.m. at Mt. Blue High School.

•May 18, referendum voting in each district town to validate the budget.

The district includes Chesterville, Farmington, Industry, New Sharon, New Vineyard, Temple, Vienna, Weld and Wilton.

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