NEW GLOUCESTER — Selectmen learned on Monday that the proposed $23.8 million RSU 15 school budget means an increase of 11.5 percent to New Gloucester residents compared to the current year’s costs.

Voters in Gray and New Gloucester will attend the RSU 15 budget meeting on Thursday that begins at 6:30 p.m. with voter registration at Gray-New Gloucester High School cafetorium. Voters will be asked to approve 17 warrant articles to fund the district.

School officials presented New Gloucester selectmen with the news that sparked concerns about the tax impact on people.

“Some people are flabbergasted,” Selectman Nathaniel Berry IV said. 

In New Gloucester, a home valued at $100,000 will see a potential tax increase of $113 for the schools.

The median home value in New Gloucester is $175,000, Town Manager Paul First said.

The town’s mill rate is set in August.

Based on state property valuation changes, Gray will see a decrease of 2.7 percent in valuation while New Gloucester’s rate will increase 1.6 percent.

New Gloucester’s share in the proposed budget totals $5 million. Gray’s portion totals $9.11 million.

The state subsidy is $9 million, an increase of $504,866. The total budget increase is $1.5 million.

Superintendent Bruce Beasley said the majority of increase in spending comes from special education, charter schools and salaries and benefits.

He added that the district is required to fund charter schools and also pay for a 9.5% increase in health insurance.

Special education costs increased by $556,958; charter schools by $169,781.

“Special education is a moving target,” he said. “The regulations have changed, and a lot of the increase is special education-driven. Our bottom 25 percent of students do very well and we have highly effective special education staff and effective programming.”

“We are uncomfortable with this budget,”  school board member and Finance Committee Chairman Ann Rowe said. “Virtual charter schools scare us a lot.”

School board member Dr. Alan Rich of New Gloucester said the charter school is a big deal.

“It’s the way the state has determined to fund it. This is a state initiative that should have been funded by the state. It’s not a fair arrangement,” Rich said, noting that the district must pay for charter schools local students attend.

Homeschooled children are not counted by the state for funds provided to schools based on student counts. And homeschoolers who attend charter schools have no funding the first year, then incremental increases until the third year of their programming.

In other business, selectmen approved participating in a Gray-New Gloucester Development Committee’s initiative in a magazine publication. The board also and supported the effort. A generous donation of $500 from New Gloucester resident Mike Brakey will pay for an ad in the upcoming publication to promote the two towns.

Tracy Scheckel of Gray said the magazine will be published four times per year and be placed in travel kiosks and local businesses to encourage growth and promote area business.


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