PARIS — Voters from the eight towns in SAD 17 will deliberate and vote on a proposed $36.5 million budget Thursday night. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the Forum at the Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in Paris.
The spending package is 1.2 percent more than this fiscal year but will not increase town assessments.
It must be approved by voters in a two-step process that begins Thursday with the approval of a 17-article warrant and continues next Tuesday, June 9, with a referendum. That second yes-or-no vote will reaffirm the action taken Thursday night.
Voters will only have an opportunity to see the budget numbers and amend them at Thursday night’s meeting.
“Change can only happen Thursday night,” Superintendent Mark Eastman said Tuesday. The budget can be increased or decreased, but Eastman said he will advocate for voters to stick with the Budget Committee’s number obtained after many months of work.
On Friday, school officials will deliver the final voter approved budget numbers to town halls so they can be posted at the polling places. On Tuesday, voters will be able to review the numbers again at their polling places prior to entering the voting booth, Eastman said. There will be no number attached to the ballot question. Because the budget number can change Thursday night, absentee ballots can not be turned in to the town until Friday, the day after voters approve the final number.
Business Manager Cathy Fanjoy said the first 11 articles on the warrant are the total budget. They detail the amount of money that will be authorized for various areas, including:
• Regular instruction, $13.7 million.
• Special education, $3.2 million.
• Career and technical education, $3.1 million.
• Transportation and buses, $2.4 million.
• School administration, $2.1 million.
• Facilities maintenance, $3.5 million.
The budget includes money for a new teaching position to address a significant increase in second-graders, the addition of a behavioral intervention program at Oxford Elementary School and the expansion of a life-skills program at the Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School.
Budget reductions were made in areas such as staff development and capital improvements to keep local taxpayers’ cost of the budget from increasing.
“We are under EPS (Essential Programs and Services) this year. Spending is less than the model calls for,” Eastman said of the state’s recommended funding formula for student education.
Voters will also be asked to authorize school officials to expend the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money that was received earlier this year. Because this is the first time voters have had to deal with the stimulus money, Eastman said the school’s attorneys suggested that the process be as open and transparent as possible and therefore the money was made a separate line item.
Voters will also be asked to approve money needed to pay the annual debt service and authorize funding for the technical and career school budget and adult education.

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