RSU16 budget up to voters

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Voters in Mechanic Falls, Minot and Poland will have the final say today on RSU 16’s proposed $18.1 million budget.

Last Wednesday residents sent the budget, which is nearly $1 million more than the current year’s budget, to the validation referendum after a lengthy debate and close votes on some particular items.

Many argued that school officials should have come up with a budget that wouldn’t raise their property taxes.

If the validation referendum passes, Mechanic Falls residents will pay $1,428,813 — or $67,621 more than they did this year. Minot’s school bill will increase by $133,861 — going from $1,590,089 to 1,723,950. Poland residents will pay $328,705 more.

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School officials estimate that the proposed budget would mean, based on a house with an assessed value of $100,000, that a property owner in Mechanic Falls would pay $45 more next year to support schools, a Minot property owner would pay $83 more, and a Poland property owner would pay an additional $46.

Others argued that the school budget had been cut drastically in the past few years and that at this point “just holding the line” would be a step backward for education in the three towns.

School officials pointed out that in the past three years 74 positions positions have been cut and that the proposed budget is actually about $1.1 million less than what it took to run the schools three years ago. In 2008-09, the budget was $19,240,826.

Efforts to trim the budget so it would have no effect on property taxes failed. A motion to cut $350,000 from the regular classroom education line was rejected by a vote of 128 to 124.

Voters will face two questions on their ballots. The first question asks if they approve the $18.1 million budget set at the May 11 district meeting.

If they vote no, a second question asks whether they want the budget increased or decreased.

Polls will be open from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. today, Tuesday, May 17, in the Municipal Building gymnasium in Mechanic Falls, at the Town Office in Minot, and at the Poland Town Hall, adjacent to the town office.

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