RUMFORD — The RSU 10 budget of $36.18 million was approved at a districtwide meeting Thursday night at Mountain Valley High School.

Nearly 100 residents spent more than three hours discussing, and sometimes arguing, over each of the 22 articles on the school district warrant. The amount approved for 2013-14 was $36,181,848. It’s almost 3 percent more than the 2012-13 budget.

“I’m very pleased with the turnout and the majority of people recognizing our efforts that will minimally impact our towns,” Superintendent Tom Ward said.

Many of the public comments were attempts to reduce the budget and make a case to combine some schools to decrease costs.

Tom Standard of Sumner said he intended to make amendments of 10 percent to most of the articles.

“Maybe it’s time to use school expenditures for what’s essential,” he said. “We need to tighten our belts and cut out waste.”

He said by reducing the budget by 10 percent, all requirements under the state’s Essential Programs and Services Funding Act would be met.

Resident Marie Marcoux objected, saying that she wanted a budget that would best meet the needs of all the children in the district.

“I want to raise the standards of our schools,” she said.

Candace Casey of Rumford suggested that all high school students could be sent to Mountain Valley High School in Rumford, thus reducing costs and eliminating the need to eventually build one high school to serve the Rumford, Dixfield and Buckfield regions of the 12-town district.

“The costs are way up, more than they should be,” she said.

Roger Boucher of Byron said small towns were being hit the hardest.

According to an informational sheet distributed Ward, Byron, Roxbury and Hanover, the smallest towns in the district, pay more per child than other towns. However, he said the assessment is based not only on the number of children who attend RSU 10 schools, but also on the town’s valuation.

“The property values are divided by the number of pupils,” Ward said after the budget vote. Overall, he said the district’s towns lost $45 million in valuation for the current school tax year.

Voters also approved the purchase of a new school bus at a cost of $88,000 over three years, and agreed to return the second floor of the Buckfield municipal building to the town. It had been used for school administrative space.

A budget validation referendum will be held June 11 in each district town.

The district includes the towns of Canton, Carthage, Dixfield, Peru, Buckfield, Hartford, Sumner, Byron, Mexico, Roxbury, Rumford and Hanover.

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