JAY — Residents told town and Regional School Unit 73 officials Wednesday night that spending cuts are needed in light of Verso Corp’s announcement of 190 layoffs at the paper mill early next year.

Twenty representatives from the towns of Jay, Livermore, Livermore Falls, which make up RSU 73, and the school board met at Spruce Mountain Middle School to discuss what can be done to lower expenses to reduce the burden on taxpayers.

On Tuesday, Verso said it will lay off 190 workers at its Androscoggin Mill when it temporarily idles a second paper machine and associated equipment during the first quarter of 2017. If the No. 3 paper machine is not restarted, those jobs will be permanently eliminated, leaving 370 workers at the mill.

The move means that Jay’s valuation will drop again because of the declining value of the paper mill and the $4 million settlement Jay is in the process of paying Verso for overtaxing the company for three tax years.

Last year, the company shut down another paper machine, a pulp dryer and permanently eliminated 300 jobs.

Nobody at the meeting disagreed that budgets need to be lowered and new revenue brought in. 

Jay Town Manager Shiloh LaFreniere said she has reached out to residents to think outside the box to come up with ideas to save money prior to budget process in early 2017.

RSU 73 representatives and town officials also recognized that they need to provide minimal services to residents and to educate students to allow them to go to college, the military or get good-paying jobs. 

Jay made several cuts last year and reduced employees. The next step is to reduce more services to residents, LaFreniere said. No matter what measures are taken, there will always be people who don’t support those cuts or support them, he said.

RSU 73 is also trying to reduce costs, including cutting transportation overtime, having employees contribute more toward health insurance and reducing staff through attrition, board Chairwoman Denise Rodzen said.

The teachers’ union has also asked that the school board try interest-based bargaining, which means both sides sit down, identify problems and try to find a solution, said Rob Taylor, a teacher and taxpayer of Jay.

The school board is investigating whether that is something they want to do, she said.

Residents need to attend budget meetings, voice their opinions and make suggestions on where cost savings can be made, Rodzen and LaFreniere said.

“We have seriously got to cut expenses” at both municipal and school levels, Jay resident Bill Calden said. His wife, Darcie, is on the RSU 73 board of directors. 

The district and some of the towns are locked into union contracts with staff that are coming up for renegotiation. 

Salaries and insurance are contracted and those things cannot be touched until they are renegotiated, said RSU 73 director Shari Ouellette of Jay. Even if the unions were asked to reopen contracts, they don’t have to, she said.

Tony Couture of Jay said he had a homework assignment for them.

“You start figuring out where you can make cuts,” he said. He accused the school district of being the biggest black hole.

“We have a cash cow here in Jay that is winding down and going to close,” he said.

Rodzen said it is time to look at administration in the district to see if it can be reduced.

“We need to look at all programs, which ones are working and which ones are not working,” she said. Some need to be revamped, she said, adding that they need to look at services.

Taylor said he agrees with Couture that cuts need to be made but they need to be carefully thought out. 

Following further discussion, former RSU 73 Director Michael Schaedler of Jay said he thought it was a great meeting. It was an open and honest discussion, he said.

[email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.