POLAND — Members of the RSU 16 School Committee voted Thursday to cut their stipends in half, reducing the proposed 2011-12 budget by $11,500.

That was the only alteration to the $18.1 million budget members could agree upon.

The passage of a budget that is about $1 million more than the current year’s budget would require Mechanic Falls, Minot and Poland taxpayers to come up with an additional $530,000 for the coming school year. Mechanic Falls Budget Committee member Bonnie Payette warned that it will take some convincing to persuade townspeople to support an increase of that magnitude when it comes time for a vote.

“We in the towns are trying to hold the line of our budgets. This $500,000 is a lot of money for an increase,” Payette said.

Mary Ella Jones, the committee’s acting chairwoman in the absence of Dave Griffiths, repeated her defense of the budget, noting that the proposed budget is lower than it was three years ago.

“That is exceptional for the budget to be lower than three years ago,” Jones said.

The total budget in 2008-09 for the then Union 29 Mechanic Falls, Minot and Poland schools, was $19,240,826.

Payette noted that it wasn’t just the additional $530,000 for this year that she was concerned about.

“Looking ahead, (the increase for) next year could go up $1.2 million, that’s double the increase, we’ve got to be thinking ahead,” Payette said.

During the meeting, individual committee members recommended trimming in other areas. Steve Holbrook suggested that the budget could be reduced by $70,000 because health insurance premiums will be going up 6½ percent, considerably less than the 10 percent budgeted.

That suggestion went nowhere — as did a motion by Norm Davis to reduce the entire budget by 3½ percent. That would have trimmed an estimated $635,000.

Asked what he would have to cut from the budget in order to absorb a loss of that magnitude, school Superintendent Dennis Duquette said he would be forced to reduce staff.

“Staff will be let go. Kids would be affected,” Duquette said.

Committee member Carl Beckett suggested the committee should reduce the amount of money for salary raises that is in the proposed budget.

“The $250,000 for raises will be a killer when it comes to town meeting,” Beckett warned.

The committee also approved the budget for the adult education program, setting it at $291,000 with $47,000 of that amount coming from local funds.

That and the $18.1 million school budget will be taken to townspeople for approval at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 11, at the Minot Consolidated School.

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