RSU 73 delays start of budget process, waits for state Legislature decisions

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LIVERMORE FALLS — RSU 73 Superintendent Robert Wall told board members Thursday night that work on the 2013-14 budget has been delayed until mid-February because of Gov. Paul LePage’s proposed state budget shifts that could significantly affect the upcoming school year’s operating budget.

“We want a responsible budget. We need as much information as possible,” he said. “The governor’s proposals may change the way we do things.”

Among the many issues the state Legislature will grapple with is the amount of teacher retirement funds that RSU 73, and all school districts in the state, may be responsible for.

Currently, teachers pay a portion of their retirement and the state pays the remainder. LePage has proposed that school districts pick up much of the state’s share. In RSU 73’s case, that would be $220,246, Wall said.

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“This is a very important legislative session for education,” he said.

In addition to the possible shift in teacher retirement payments, Wall said the Legislature will take up teacher and administrator evaluations, possibly expand the number of allowable charter schools, act on a law governing restraint and seclusion of students, and possibly make further changes to the retirement system.

Residents of the three towns of RSU 73 — Jay, Livermore, and Livermore Falls — finally passed an operating budget for 2012-13 at the third referendum vote held in mid-August, just two weeks before classes resumed. That figure was $18.59 million.

Since then, the governor has placed a curtailment on spending, including General Purpose Aid to education in all schools districts. RSU 73 lost $39,418.

The new budget timeline, announced Thursday, calls for budget workbooks to be distributed to the board at their regular meeting on Feb. 14, then work sessions are planned to review all cost centers for Monday, Feb. 25, Tuesday, Feb. 26, and Monday, March 4.

The board is expected to vote on a proposed budget at its regular board meeting on March 14.

A district-wide budget meeting and vote is scheduled for March 26 at the Spruce Mountain Middle School cafeteria.

Residents of the three towns will then vote at referendum on the figure approved on March 26 in their respective towns on April 23.

Meanwhile, a major renovation and reuse project is expected to begin at the Spruce Mountain High School and Spruce Mountain Middle School campuses in Jay soon after the budget vote.

The project, funded by $1.8 million in no- or low-interest bonds, is needed to provide sufficient space for all RSU 73 high school students. Right now, about 240 sophomores, juniors and seniors are housed at the former Livermore Falls High School campus, and about 260 high school students are housed at the north campus in Jay.

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