SAD 21 cost strains plan

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PERU – “School expenses are climbing faster than the town’s tax base,” Selectman Bill Hine said as he opened a discussion on the SAD 21 budget with Superintendent Tom Ward.

Hine said school expenses have traditionally cost Peru $11.50 to 12 per $1,000 of assessed property value, while the proposed SAD 21 budget would increase that to $14.

The town tax base usually increases about 1.5 percent per year. Any increase in school expenses that exceed 1.5 percent will mean that the town will have to either raise taxes or further cut services. The proposed school budget would cause a 6 percent increase in Peru’s share. The town has already cut proposed roadwork in an effort to keep down tax increases.

Ward replied that Peru will see a “big bite” of more than $230,000 in this year’s school budget due to the cost of merging with SAD 21. Due to differences in fiscal years, Peru will spread this over two years. He estimated that “normal” increases in subsequent years would be on the order of $40,000.

Ward said the school faces “automatic” increases due to teacher salaries, employee wages, higher benefit cost and the price of fuel. He said $230,000 for items such as positions and repairs to the facilities has already been stripped from the proposed budget.

The board considered the complaint of a resident who said there were serious safety problems with her home that her landlord refused to fix. Members of the board agreed that there were no town ordinances that would let them directly intervene.

Newly elected Selectman Dennis Thibodeault said he would contact the state, which he believes can intervene in the case. If the state can not help, the board will suggest the resident contact an attorney.

Road Commissioner David Gammon will work with Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments, which is trying to have towns in a three-county region pool their purchase of culverts. If details can be worked out, there is a potential for saving money, Gammon said.

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