Spending halted in RSU 9, hiring frozen

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FARMINGTON — RSU 9 Superintendent Tom Ward stopped all spending and froze hiring Wednesday until the results of the budget validation referendum become known Sept. 12.

Regional School Unit 9 voters approved a reduced spending proposal that is $92,189 less than last year’s budget, during a districtwide budget meeting Tuesday night.

The new, $32.65 million budget proposal for 2017-18 will go to voters in each of the 10 towns in a yes-or-no referendum next Tuesday.

Voters cut about $900,000 from the school board’s budget of $33.6 million that was voted on Tuesday. It had represented an $887,984 (2.71 percent) increase over the 2016-17 budget.

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Voters reduced spending in all budget categories except debt service, which RSU 9 is obligated to pay, in an attempt to fund the budget at last year’s approved $32.74  million. 

The proposal is less than last year’s because debt service dropped by $92,189 this year from the 2016-17 amount. 

“We’re trying to find $900,000 between now and June 30,” Ward said Wednesday, “and that’s not going to be easy.”

Ward and other school officials were looking at everything in the budget Wednesday to determine where they could find reductions.

If voters approve the proposal as is Sept. 12, it will be the 2017-18 budget.

If voters say no, the school board will have to develop another budget to go to voters in Chesterville, Farmington, Industry, New Sharon, New Vineyard, Starks, Temple, Vienna, Weld and Wilton.

Ward had estimated Tuesday that if the decisions were based only on money, it would mean cutting about 16 positions to meet the new proposed budget.

Officials were looking Wednesday at which positions were in the budget and which positions were not filled and whether they could do without filling them, he said.

“We have to be careful with special education,” he said, and not cut positions that are mandated by law. That would put the district in noncompliance with students’ individual education plans and services that are required.  

“We’re just looking at everything,” Ward said.

Voters had rejected two budget proposals in the validation referendum votes in June and August. Each reflected an increase of more than $1 million.

Following Tuesday’s vote, the district, as the law allows, is now operating on a $32.65 million budget. 

The board had reduced a proposed $33.9 million budget that failed Aug. 3 by nearly $300,000 before sending it back to voters Tuesday. 

Directors had removed new positions to put the full $729,000 in state funds, which exceeded the governor’s proposal, to reduce projected tax assessments to the towns. It resulted in an overall 2.06 percent decrease. 

dperry@sunjournal.com

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