FARMINGTON — Regional School Unit 9 directors have boosted the draft 2017-18 budget to $34.17 million, about $1.43 million more than this fiscal year.

The initial proposal in January was $33.57 million, an increase of $829,730 from the current year. Last year’s budget of $32.74 million passed by 37 votes on the second try.

Directors in mostly mixed votes on Tuesday and Thursday have added positions from a needs list that didn’t make the preliminary budget. Among them is making the half-time American Sign Language teaching position full-time and adding a half-time science teacher, both at the high school.

They also added four social workers in several schools to support students to stay in general education classes. They added several education technicians to the special education program to meet the needs of a growing number of students being identified as requiring those services.

Directors also added a full-time student services position for Foster Career and Technical Education Center. There was a full-time person in 2015-16. Directors kept three full-time counselors at the high school. One counselor had worked part-time to assist students in the Foster Tech program, but it was deemed not enough.

In addition, the special education contingency fund was increased by $175,000 to make it $200,000. The budget has been frozen early on in the school year for the past three years because of students moving into the district in need of special services. The money has come from district contingency accounts.

Director Ryan Morgan of Farmington requested the increase, saying it was unfair to the other students and the other teachers to freeze the budget.

The caveat for the additional positions and expenses is that if the district does not receive more than the anticipated revenue, directors will take another look at the added positions and dollars.

Currently, the governor’s budget proposal removed system administration out of the state’s essential programs and services funding formula. It includes Central Office, superintendent and technology administration, among other positions. Previously, 50 percent of the system administration was covered under the formula.

It means about $500,000 to RSU 9.

Superintendent Tom Ward said they are confident that the state Legislature will restore the 50 percent to the funding formula. However, it does not look like the state will have a budget before June 30.

The district can put an article on the budget warrant that would allow the district to spend additional state revenues that come in after the budget is approved.

A couple of years ago, the district used half of the money to lower town assessments and put the rest in contingency. There are four options directors will choose from to put on the warrant for the annual districtwide budget vote.

Ward said he knows the district will get additional funding but does not know exactly how much.

He reminded directors Tuesday and Thursday that he realizes they are prioritizing needs if additional funding comes in.

The only way the district is going to pass a budget is to use additional revenues to try to hit a target of getting the school assessments to a majority of the 10 towns reduced, he said. Then they can use the remainder of the additional funds to fund the new positions.

“We have to convey to the towns our first priority is trying to get to a zero percent increase overall for assessments to the towns,” Ward said. Some towns may see increases and some will see decreases.

Last year, additional revenues helped the district reduce assessments to eight of the 10 towns.

The school board will meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 2, in the Forum at Mt. Blue Campus to set the 2017-18 budget.

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