DIXFIELD – About a dozen residents turned out
Tuesday night for a presentation on the Western Foothills School
District’s proposed budget.

Superintendent Tom Ward outlined the
reasons behind the $34.1 million proposal, which is slightly less than
the total approved by the three member districts – SADs 21 in Dixfield,
39 in Buckfield and 43 in Rumford – for fiscal year 2008-09.

“The
state valuation for each town went up this year; that means the state
gives us less money, and most towns have to raise a little more,” he
said.

For this year only, no carryover for the new consolidated
system, known as Regional School Unit 10, will be used to offset school
taxes because funds from each member district were returned to
individual towns; however, towns are expected to apply that money to
their education assessments. The new school unit also includes Hanover.

The
amounts to be raised in support of education increased for Byron,
Canton, Carthage, Dixfield, Hanover, Peru and Roxbury, and decreased
for the towns of Buckfield, Hartford, Mexico, Rumford and Sumner.

If
voters approve the proposed budget, taxpayers owning homes valued at
$100,000 will see the following changes in their tax bills due to
educational costs: 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.

Dixfield resident Dan McKay asked whether the tax rate would have risen if SAD 21 had not joined a regional school unit.

Ward said school taxes would most likely have risen more if the three districts did not vote to join together.

“Regionalization couldn’t have come at a better time for this area,” Ward said.

Savings to central office costs came in at $617,000, which is about $250,000 more than originally estimated.

“Without that $617,000, we would lose programs or ask the communities for more money,” he said.

Also,
he said the state’s promise to pay 55 percent of school costs had been
close, up until the economic downturn took effect. Now, he said,
districts receive about 46 percent.

Funds to be raised locally for 2009-10 are just under $14 million. Last year, that figure was $14.2 million.

On
Monday night, about two dozen people heard similar information on the
budget at a meeting in the Buckfield region. On Wednesday night,
Rumford area residents will have their chance at the Mexico Town Hall.

Voters
from the Western Foothills School District will act on the proposed
budget at 6 p.m., Thursday, at Dirigo High School. They will then vote
in individual towns by referendum on June 9.


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