DIXFIELD — The Western Foothills Regional School Unit 10 board unanimously adopted a 2010-11 operating budget Monday night that essentially calls for a 0 percent increase over the current year’s budget.
“We’re down to the bare bones. We’re trying our best,” said board Vice-Chairman Bruce Ross. “We don’t want to lose our system.”
That figure, which will be voted on by district residents, came in at $33.4 million, which is actually $800,000 less than this year’s $34.2 million.
It’s still a flat budget because it eliminates the federal stimulus money, and school taxes will likely go up in many member towns because of less state aid and an increase in property values.
Seven educational technicians and possibly a half-time teacher will lose their jobs despite a proposed flat budget that made some significant cuts because of the number of retirements and resignations submitted this year.
Superintendent Tom Ward said about 20 positions were eliminated.
At Monday’s meeting, the board made the final reductions — more than $109,000 from technology, $471,000 from buildings, grounds and transportation, $154,000 from special education, some of which may be picked up by MaineCare, $215,000 from the purchase of new textbook series, and nearly $60,000 from a variety of accounts including library books and periodicals, postage and music tutors.
The last prompted the greatest amount of discussion.
Music tutors have served Dirigo elementary, middle and high schools for many years. About $25,000 was built into the originally proposed budget to keep the program, but neither the Mountain Valley nor the Buckfield region has such a program.
“I recommended this cut because I don’t see the possibility of offering it to the Mountain region or the Buckfield region,” Ward said.
Ken Labrecque, Dirigo music teacher, said the special attention students receive from tutoring has helped propel students to major competitions that normally see only students of schools of much larger size.
Maida Demers-Dobson, a Buckfield representative, said the idea of the three districts coming together to form the Western Foothills unit was not to take away any program one region might have.
“Aren’t there grants or something for this?” she asked.
Hartford representative Armand Rowe also objected to the elimination of the Dirigo music tutor program.
“Should Mountain Valley and Dirigo cut football because Buckfield doesn’t have it? Some kids don’t play sports. This (music) is their sport,” he said.
Ward said he’d look for grants, but he also said he was trying his best to create a budget that eliminated the fewest jobs possible.
“I’d love to see the tutor program spread to other schools, but we have to make cuts,” he said.
The final adopted figure will be presented to residents of each of the three regions later this month. For Buckfield, that will be at 6 p.m., May 25 at the town office building. Dirigo residents will meet at 6 p.m., May 26 at Dirigo High School. Mountain Valley residents will meet at 6 p.m., May 27 at the Mexico Town Hall.
A districtwide, town meeting-style vote takes place on June 3, followed by a referendum validation vote on June 8.