Minot selectman speaks against proposed school budget

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MINOT — Selectman Eda Tripp read a prepared statement to the Board of Selectmen on Monday in which she called for support in asking the RSU 16 committee to revisit the school budget proposed for the 2011-12 school year.

“People are having a hard time feeding their families, paying their taxes, finding jobs and keeping gas in their cars,” Tripp read. “Having said that, the school budget as presented is extremely inflated, which is expected to cost taxpayers a large increase in their tax bills.”

Tripp noted that the overall school budget — $18.1 million — is $1 million more than the current budget and includes new programs and positions, and calls for salary increases, as well.

The added cost to Minot taxpayers, according to school officials, is about $83 on a house valued at $100,000.

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Tripp continued in her statement to point out that while this year’s budget would add a substantial increase to the local tax bill, the forecast for next year calls for “another large hit.”

Regional School Unit 16 officials last week presented figures that indicated taxpayers would have to come up with about $530,000 more in local tax dollars, and indications were that a year from now the budget request could seek an additional $1.2 million in local taxes.

At last week’s RSU 16 committee meeting, the board was asked to consider making cuts that would reduce, or eliminate altogether, the $530,000 increase in what local taxpayers will be asked to come up with if the proposed budget is passed.

The committee defeated a motion to cut 3.5 percent, amounting to some $635,000, from the budget, and it rejected a motion to cut $70,000 — an amount expected to be saved because the actual increase in health insurance premiums was less than what was anticipated when the budget was crafted.

The RSU 16 committee did vote to cut in half stipends for its members, a move that reduced the budget by $11,500.

The slightly reduced budget will be presented for a vote on Wednesday, May 11, at a special “tri-town” public hearing at Minot Consolidated School.

Voters from Mechanic Falls, Minot and Poland will be asked, in traditional town meeting format, to approve a budget that will be placed on a ballot in all three towns on Tuesday, May 17.

Selectmen on Monday approved a warrant calling voters to the May 11 meeting.

“It’s a budget Minot can’t afford,” Tripp said. “If the public doesn’t come out to vote it down, the School Committee will never revisit it.”

In other business, Town Administrator Arlan Saunders asked selectmen how they wanted to proceed in finding a replacement for Chris Woodford on the RSU 16 committee.

Woodford, whose term runs until June 30, 2012, resigned in March. According to the new school consolidation law, selectmen have the authority to name a replacement to fill the unexpired term.

Saunders told selectmen that current School Committee member Annette Hemond-Annance, who is scheduled to leave the board in July, had expressed an interest in being Woodford’s replacement.

Selectmen, wanting to make sure the public was aware of the vacancy and that there were no others interested in the position, tabled action on Woodford’s replacement until another meeting.

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