FARMINGTON — RSU 9 school directors voted Tuesday to return $172,949 of the $307,949 in additional money that will come from the state. The remaining $135,000 will remain with the district to cover the $135,000 the district lost in January to a state curtailment in last year’s budget.

Of the $172,949 to be returned to the towns, $135,000 of it covers the local share of teacher retirement costs that school districts were forced to pick up this year. The district was faced with about $350,000 in retirement costs for the first time in this year’s $29.74 million budget.

Governor Paul LePage proposed in his state budget that school districts pay a share of teacher retirement costs. The Legislature arrived at a budget that would have the districts pay retirement costs but also would give districts some additional funding to help offset those costs and cover the curtailment, according to new Superintendent Tom Ward.

Former Superintendent Mike Cormier froze supplies and made other cuts to offset the $135,000 curtailment in January.

The additional funds will be returned to the district’s ten towns in the form of lower tax assessments.

The board’s decision on what portion of the additional money to send back to the towns came after a lengthy discussion. Some board members wanted to send it all back, and others cited fiscal responsibility and not having to go back to the taxpayers for additional money if there was an emergency. Most agreed the $135,000 needed to cover retirement costs should be returned to taxpayers.

The district normally carries over about $400,000 annually from one budget to another and this year the carryover was only about $200,000.

An article approved by voters in the district-wide meeting in June would allow the school board to use the money to lower the tax assessments.

There are a couple ways to look at it, Ward said. If you don’t choose to send the money back, it could go into carryover for the next year’s budget. That could be used to reduce the commitment to the budget, he said.

The district is grateful that residents passed the budget, and that they did so with the article that would allow the board to use any additional funds to reduce tax assessments, he said.

“We don’t want to betray the trust,” Ward said.

“We put the article in there because we are fiscally responsible,” Vice Chairwoman Claire Andrews of Farmington said.

When you tell somebody you are going to to do something, you need to do it, Director Nancy Crosby of Weld said. The board needs to continue to be considered credible and that means returning money, she said.

“I personally feel it should go straight back to communities,” new Director Eric Gilbert of Farmington said.

The dilemma to the board is do “we return that additional $307,949 to the towns or do we just return what covers the retirement cost,” Ward said.

Crosby said she was OK as long as they returned at least the $135,000 to lower the tax commitment.

She believed voters had the perception that all additional funds would be used to lower taxes.

Andrews said that the district has carried over $400,000 in previous years but this year it is only half of that, which is dangerously low. The board needs to have money in case there is an emergency or need to add a teacher should more students move in or there is another curtailment, she said.

The money was given to the district in support of education, Director Iris Silverstein of Farmington said.

“My thinking is we give back the ($135,000) and the remainder of the money be kept for education,” she said.

Leanne Condon, assistant superintendent/director of curriculum, also reminded the board that the district will lose more than $50,000 in federal funding due to the federal budget sequester.

The initial motion to return $135,000 to the towns was amended to return $172,949. It passed by a 13-2 vote, with William Reid of New Sharon and Bob Flick of Farmington opposed.

When the motion to return the $172,949 came, it passed unanimously.

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