RSU 9 budget meeting, vote Tuesday

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FARMINGTON — The $25.4 million proposed budget for Regional School Unit 9, which is about 15 percent higher than the current year, will be presented at a districtwide budget meeting and vote on Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the Mt. Blue High School gym.

The Maine Legislature passed a new process of adopting school budgets in 2008 as part of the school consolidation legislation. According to this procedure, if the budget is approved by voters who attend the public meeting Tuesday, it then must be validated by a referendum vote June 1 in the nine member towns — Chesterville, Farmington, Industry, New Sharon, New Vineyard, Temple, Vienna, Weld and Wilton.

Copies of the budget review are available in the district office at Mt. Blue Middle School on Middle Street and at each school.

“In times of continued reduced revenue from the state, this is a responsible budget that protects and preserves programs,” Superintendent Michael Cormier said in a phone interview.

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The district expects to lose $416,000 in state aid in 2011-12.

This past spring, school board members met with the community, school employees and support staff asking for ideas on where to save money.

One suggestion was to privatize the custodial and transportation services, but that has not been included in this budget. The board held extensive discussions, heard from the public and put the proposals out to bid. But in the end, they did not find the savings could be balanced by the loss of local control and the extensive loss of jobs.

If services are contracted out, the businesses have said they would interview current employees for the new positions. However, the majority of the new jobs would be part-time without benefits, which would have a huge impact on many families, employees told board members in April.

If the public does not support the budget Tuesday, the board may have to reopen the bids to find additional savings, since over $600,000 in cuts from operations have already been made, Cormier said.

The School Board, administrators and the Budget Committee were able to keep the increase to the operational budget to below 1 percent, or less than $155,000.

The total budget, however, increases by 15 percent over what was raised in 2010-2011 because it includes the first year of debt service for more than $80 million in new school construction.

The new W.G. Mallett School opens in September and the new Mt. Blue Learning Campus is expected to be completed by 2013. More than 95 percent of the costs will be paid by the state following passage of a state referendum several years ago. The debt amount, however, must still be included in the budget, Cormier said.

If the budget is approved, it would result in a $521,000 increase to local towns that would be divided according to state property valuations. Cormier estimated the impact would be in the range of about $40 on property valued at $100,000.

The only personnel cuts in the proposed budget would eliminate 1.5 teaching positions at Mt. Blue High School, making one math, one foreign language and one social studies position half-time.

After moving teachers around to fill vacancies and retirements according to seniority, one part-time language teacher would be laid off, Cormier said.

The budget would also reduce a special education position for a program being put on hiatus for one year; decrease money for classroom supplies, textbooks and central supply funds by small amounts; and make the district’s prekindergarten classes full-day programs for two or three days a week to reduce the cost of midday transportation.

The mileage reimbursement for School Board travel would also be eliminated and administrators’ travel and conference account cut by 50 percent.

Other small cuts would be made to co-curricular activities at the elementary and middle schools; and district employees, over the two-year budget period, have agreed to one year without a salary or wage increase.

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