School budget passes in Poland

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POLAND — RSU 16 directors Thursday night approved a $17.2 million budget for the 2001-11 fiscal year. The vote was 10 to 2, with three board members absent.

The budget is $1.1 million less than the current year.

“The total amount assessed of the three towns will remain flat,” Superintendent Dennis Duquette said.

He noted, however, that as a result of the change in the district’s cost-sharing formula, property-taxpayers in Mechanic Falls, Minot and Poland will be affected differently.

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On a $100,000 property in each town, the effect will be as follows: Mechanic Falls taxes would go down $10.04; Minot taxes would go up $18.07; and Poland taxes would go down $1.92.

“The good news is taxes are minimally impacted. The bad news is there will be staff and program cuts,” Duquette said.

A total of 24 positions in the school system are eliminated with this budget.

Among the programs affected are music, where the number of teaching positions will go from 4.5 to three. French will be eliminated at Poland Regional High School.

“The budget still maintains a very strong school system,” Duquette said.

Two school board members voted against the budget.

Scott Sawyer and Susan Callahan wanted to restore full funding for the music program.

The board followed Director Carl Beckett, who pointed to sustainability as a reason for not restoring funding.

“It wouldn’t be good if we put it in this year and then have to take it out next year,” Beckett said.

In the next step in the budget approval process, residents of the three towns will meet at 6:30 p.m. Monday, May 3, at the Poland high school to discuss and vote on the budget. It then goes for a validation vote Tuesday, May 11, at regular polling places in the three towns.

The school board also approved $230,000 for the adult education program. Included in this amount was the restoration of $17,000 that forced postponement of the vote Monday night.

Duquette said the $17,000 will come from money saved from the switch from oil to wood chips as heating fuel at the high school.

Earlier in the evening, the board awarded the contract for the biomass boiler to Northline Energy of Lynnwood, Wash.

The system will cost $600,921. Ninety percent of that will be paid through a federal economic stimulus grant. The district’s $60,000 share will come from the capital improvement fund.

The boiler is projected to save $70,000 in fuel costs.

Duquette said this year’s budget is built on a $50,000 savings.

According to the bid proposal, Northline Energy agrees to have the system operational for the 2010 heating season.

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