Schools account for most of tax increase

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BUCKFIELD – Town Manager Glen Holmes informed selectmen Tuesday night that because of the increase in the school budget and a bookkeeping error on the homestead exemption, the mill rate will increase by $1.40 per $1,000 of valuation.

This breaks down to an 8-cent increase from the town, a $1.28 increase from the schools, and a 4-cent increase from the county. With the new mill rate, taxes on a $125,000 house will increase by $173.75.

This year the state upped the requirements for homestead exemptions, but only funded half the amount. SAD 39 Superintendent Rick Colpitts and School Board Chairman Colleen Bullechs presented the school budget and fielded questions concerning the budget.

After Chairman of the Board of Selectmen Oscar Gammon had looked at the budget, he addressed Colpitts saying, “I can see that you have done a lot of work on this budget, but it never levels off. We have to meet the school budget and let the infrastructure of the town go down.”

Selectman Skip Stanley asked Colpitts, “What have you done to save the town money?”

Colpitts defended the budget by saying, “We have moved a teacher from the elementary to the high school to fill a need. Our staff is minimal with class sizes now at 24, and we expect that to increase to 28 or 30. Our student performance is average at best and we are trying to get performance up to state standards while trying to reduce the budget.”

He outlined several maintenance issues that had to be addressed. One boiler is out at the elementary school and must be replaced. Also the asbestos issue at the school must be addressed. He said the carpet covering the asbestos tile is so frayed it can’t be shampooed or even vacuumed. He also said they need a new school bus, but the state won’t fund it, which is a cost of $64,000. In addition there are nine special education students who must be bused out of town, which is another $193,000.

The selectmen discussed the Comprehensive Plan and decided it should not be taken up at the annual meeting until the committee can have more public hearings. They plan three or four hearings between July and September and have a special town meeting in the fall to approve the plan.

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