JAY — Regional School Unit 73 Superintendent Kenneth Healey said after Thursday night’s school board meeting that he hopes to present a smaller budget than last year.

Last year, voters approved an $18.65 million spending plan for fiscal year 2015-16. Five retiring teachers were not replaced, while the number of students has remained about the same at 1,540.

Town managers and selectmen from the district towns of Jay, Livermore and Livermore Falls were among the nearly 50 people who attended Thursday’s meeting to comment on the upcoming budget.

“I got what I was looking for,” Healey said.

Among the factors that could reduce staffing in fiscal year 2016-17 are replacing retirees with staff who have fewer years of experience. He said he plans no retirement incentive.

Another factor is the likelihood that tax revenue from Verso Corp.’s Androscoggin Mill in Jay may be significantly reduced in the next few years. About 300 employees were laid off last month and questions continue about whether more jobs will be eliminated.

Although state education subsidies could pick up some of the lost paper mill tax revenue, they would not kick in for a couple of years.

RSU 73 board Chairwoman Denise Rodzen said she wants the administration to review each school program to determine whether they are still necessary before making any arbitrary cuts.

Board member Shari Ouellette suggested that the district’s focus be more on education and less on extracurricular activities.

Rodzen said such out-of-classroom activities frequently keep some students in school.

If positions are eliminated, Healey said, the size of classes would increase, which would not be a good educational start for students.

“This community has come together and solidified a good education,” he said.

The board will receive the budget workbooks at its Feb. 11 regular meeting. 
Budget workshops are scheduled for 6 p.m. Feb. 25, March 10, March 17 and March 24 at the Cedar Street board room.

The first districtwide vote is tentatively set for April 7 at Spruce Mountain Middle School. The referendum vote on the budget figure determined at the April 7 district meeting will be held in each town on April 26.


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