MEXICO – The Western Foothills School District’s first proposed budget wasn’t officially approved by the board Tuesday night, but it came close.

An informal thumbs up-thumbs down poll showed that all but three of the 16 directors want to present to voters on June 4 no increase over the total figure the three member districts adopted last year.

The three 2008-09 budgets totaled $34.2 million. The informal poll Tuesday supported a $34.13 million for 2009-10.

An official vote will be taken at a special meeting set for 6:30 p.m. May 5 at the district’s central office in Dixfield.

SAD 43 representatives Judy Boucher of Byron and Betty Barrett of Mexico wanted a reduction in the total budget. SAD 43 representative Marcia Chaisson of Rumford was undecided.

Superintendent Tom Ward will further define the cuts that were made to several areas to bring in a flat budget, such as where the $500,000 reduction came from in the transportation program, the elimination of new positions to meet the needs of special education pupils, the elimination of a regionwide prekindergarten program, and the decision to not include a high school laptop program in the budget.

If the $34.13 million budget is approved next Tuesday, the property tax impact on a $100,000 home in each member town would be:

Buckfield: -$26.16; Byron: +$8.15; Canton: +$4.82; Carthage: +$62.29; Dixfield: +$26.20; Hanover: +$12.32; Hartford: -$18.13; Mexico: -$64.74; Peru: +$30.27; Roxbury: +$6.04; Rumford: -$37.16; and Sumner: -$7.26.

Federal stimulus money, regionalization, flat health insurance premiums and reduced fuel costs helped keep the budget level, Ward said. No positions were eliminated, other than those that were left vacant due to retirement or attrition.

Ward said additional stimulus money is expected, but much of it has a great number of strings attached. He said he believes there is a way to retain the high school laptop program, either through federal money or state money, or by other means. He is also hopeful that stimulus money will pay for a regionwide prekindergarten program.

“We have new information on stimulus money and how it can be used,” he said, adding that much more work needs to be done before next week’s meeting.

The low teacher-pupil ratio will allow the reassignment of teachers to various positions within the region, Ward said.

The Western Foothills School District, also known as Regional School Unit 10, is made up of SAD 43, known as the Mountain Valley Region, SAD 21, known as the Dirigo Region, SAD 39, known as the Buckfield Region, and the town of Hanover.

In other regionalization matters, the new school unit must meet soon with SAD 17 in Norway-Paris and SAD 44 in Bethel to discuss a common calendar for school year 2009-10. While students from the Mountain Valley Region, Dirigo Region, and nearby SAD 44 attend the Region 9 School of Applied Technology for vocational education, Buckfield Region students attend Region 11, which is located at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in SAD 17.

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