CANTON — Regional School Unit 56 Director Natalie Sneller presented selectmen Thursday night with the school board’s $13.2 million budget for 2017-18.

It’s the first budget since the district was formed after Canton, Carthage, Dixfield, and Peru withdrew from RSU 10 last November to have more local control and cut costs.

Sneller said the school board focused on “still offering the programs that we need for the kids but also trying to be fiscally responsible.”

It represents more than a 24 percent tax increase to taxpayers in all four towns.

In their first round of budget cuts, the board removed the expanded pre-kindergarten and expanded Special Education programs, she said.

Another round of cuts took out “supply line items, professional development, and travel. And then we started looking at the harder things. So, what we’ve done is we’ve tried to limit the impact on the kids as much as we can.

“We cut (junior varsity) sports at the middle school and high school,” she said.

Instructional music at the middle school was also cut, along with music, chorus and band at the high school. Alternative Education at the high school was another cut, a decision that “impacts about 25 students,” she said.

The decision to close the Central Office building in Dixfield was made “at the 23rd hour” according to Sneller.

The building houses the Wellness Center and RSU 10’s administrative offices until Aug. 1.

RSU 56 interim Superintendent Brenda Gammon said previously that administrators would most likely be housed in various locations, such as a portable office near Dirigo High School in Dixfield and in the middle school in Dixfield and the elementary school in Peru.

Selectman Donald Hutchins urged the board to support the spending plan as is.

“I think we need to do it, I think it needs to be paid,” he said. “The school cuts are enough as it is. Do you want to teach your kids or do you want to cut everything out of the school?” he asked.

“Ultimately you’d be beefing up on your police force because the kids aren’t going to have anything to do — that’s when kids get into trouble,” he said. “So you can pay for it on the law enforcement side or you can pay for it on the education side. I prefer the education. I think we should pay,” he said.

Selectmen Rob Walker and Malcolm Ray agreed, saying education was the reason the towns voted to withdraw from RSU 10.

“The school board had some hard decisions to make, but these are decisions that are being made by board members from Dixfield, Canton, Carthage and Peru, not Hartford and wherever else,” Ray said. “At least they are decisions that are being made by local control.”

An informational meeting on the school budget will be held at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 30, at Dirigo High School.

A districtwide vote on the budget will be held at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 31, also at the high school.

The final budget validation will be held at polls in all four towns on June 13.

In other business, it was announced the town has opened the gate on Meadowview Road to the public for Memorial Day weekend. It will close the gate Tuesday.

In April 2015, selectmen voted 3-0 to have Administrator Scotty Kilbreth look into prices for two gates to be placed at either end of the road, which runs off Route 140 in Canton to Tessier Road in Livermore Falls.

At that time, it was reported there were places along the road that have been proverbial party spots for young people from the Jay, Livermore Falls and Canton areas for decades. Additionally, people are wrecking the road as the frost is leaving by driving pickup trucks with overly large tires that rut it up.

“We’ve got a big issue out in Meadowview,” Kilbreth said at the time. “People are coming in from the Livermore side and they’re tearing the ever-loving hell out of our road.”

In other news at Thursday’s meeting, Town Clerk Kathy Walker announced a resident anonymously donated eight office chairs to the Town Office.

The next selectmen meeting is at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, June 8, at the Town Office.

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Town Clerk Kathy Walker announced at Thursday night’s Board of Selectmen meeting that eight office chairs have been donated to the Town Office by a Canton resident who wishes to remain anonymous. Selectman Don Hutchins is at right.


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