DIXFIELD — Regional School Unit 56 directors are considering nearly $2 million in budget cuts as they struggle to build their first spending plan since voting last year to leave RSU 10.

Faced with requests totaling $13.48 million Tuesday night, directors tried to balance needs with what residents of Canton, Carthage, Dixfield and Peru can afford.

“Just the show of people that were (at the meeting) last night, obviously people are concerned and they care,” interim Superintendent Brenda Gammon said Wednesday. “We just need to try to get RSU 56 moving forward in a positive direction. And I totally understand that that’s hard for people to comprehend when we’re trying to decide on all these major cuts. And they are major; every cut will impact students in some way or another.”

On Tuesday, directors learned the $13.48 million budget, which includes possible cuts of $1.98 million, would increase school taxes ranging from 26.61 percent for Peru to 36.60 percent for Dixfield.

Some directors said the cuts already considered may still not be enough for the four towns.

Director Edgar Parent of Peru said he met with that town’s selectmen, who told him his estimate of a 27 percent increase in school taxes would not be palatable to residents.

And Chairwoman Barbara Chow of Dixfield said any money left from last year must be used to pay its debt to RSU 10, under terms of the withdrawal agreement.

“I do know we have very little revenue and the revenue comes from your carryover, which the carryover is now utilized, so we have to pay our debt,” she told directors Tuesday.

“We have MaineCare debt and we have food service debt,” she said. “Before we leave RSU 10, that is part of the agreement. We have to pay that up front and with the carryover and with the debt, that is pretty much a wash.”

The first round of cuts includes such areas as technology, special education, buildings and grounds maintenance, an accounts payable position from full to half-time, and summer salaries for 2018.

Another likely round of cuts under consideration includes an expanded pre-K program at Dixfield Elementary School, alternative education and industrial arts programs at Dirigo High and Middle schools in Dixfield, openings for a custodian and bus driver, and $100,000 in the food service program.

Also in consideration for elimination are all junior varsity sports at the middle school, a music teacher at the high school, teacher leaders at the middle school and a changing a vice principal to a dean of students for grades six through 12.

On Wednesday, Gammon said the board will create two more lists of additional cuts.

The school board will meet at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 9, at the high school.

It is scheduled to approve a budget at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 16, at a place to be determined.

RSU 56 includes the four towns that formerly comprised School Administrative District 21, which merged with SAD 43 in Rumford in 2009 to become RSU 10. Last year, the four towns voted to withdraw and form their own district again to give them more local contral and save money.

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Dirigo High School in Dixfield.


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