PARIS — The majority of Oxford Hills School District directors supported the Budget Committee recommendation to return more than $500,000 to taxpayers from the additional state subsidy received this summer.

Despite an amendment offered by Norway Director Michael Marshall to put $524,513 of the $1.04 million received into the Capital Reserve account, other directors argued successfully that what was promised to the taxpayers during the June budget meeting should be delivered.

Calling it delivery of a “good faith effort,” Chairman Ron Kugell asked directors to “keep the faith with the citizenry,” and do what directors promised.

In June, voters in seven of the eight School Administrative District 17 towns approved the $39.6 million budget by a vote of 1,286 to 829. The 2017-18 budget reflected a reduction in state subsidy and a 4.19 percent increase in local assessments.

But they also authorized directors to spend above the Essential Programs and Services recommendation by $1.86 million, which was exceeded by $1.10 million. The state subsidy dropped about $2.3 million this year, and because of a shift in how much the state is kicking in, local funds had to make up the difference.

By taking that vote, the district avoided the state’s requirement that half of any “extra” state funds school districts received be used to lower local taxpayer costs for their schools.

School districts that voted to exceed EPS were able to determine how they would spend any extra money once the state settled on school funding levels.

Director Natalie Andrews of West Paris implored fellow members to “pay attention” to the “very loud whisper” heard from town officials and residents who asked for a return of some of their tax money if the state came back with more money for the district.

“When Mr. Kugell said credibility is key, it absolutely is,” she said.

Others such as Director and Budget Committee member Bob Patrie of Waterford said the money should be added to the Capital Reserve fund toward the estimated $2 million replacement of the high school roof that will be needed within 10 years and other needs in the district.

“We’re robbing our teachers and students of the best education they can get here,” Patrie said of the need to increase funding for educational purposes rather than returning it to the taxpayer.

Extra money

The remaining $515,486 will be divvied up into the following: $25,000 for the Capital Reserve fund; $20,000 for a substitute caller; $100,000 to increase the Contingency Fund; and $35,000 for proficiency professional development, which is training staff on the mandated performance based diplomas that will be used starting in 2021.

Another $85,000 is slated to purchase a school bus. School officials said the money brings the district back into step with its attempt to purchase three or four new buses each year to keep the age of the overall fleet under 12 years.

A total of $120,000 will be used for a heating, air conditioning and ventilation system at the Oxford Annex. The Annex is being leased to bring students with exceptional needs from several districts together to save money. The rent will reduce the initial startup costs for SAD 17, which is the lead district in the pilot program and providing the space.

Another $18,000 will be used for updating electrical service at the Oxford Annex.

A total of $5,800 will pay for a compressor at Rowe Elementary School and $12,000 for circulators at Waterford Elementary. An additional $88,686 will also be added to the Capital Reserve fund.

Selectmen from several towns, including West Paris and Norway, attended the meeting to support the Budget Committee’s recommendation to return money to taxpayers.

Superintendent Rick Colpitts said the money will not be returned as a check to the towns but rather through reducing the town’s monthly assessment bills. For example, towns like Norway and Oxford may see a reduction of about $100,000  while others like Hebron would see a reduction of $19,500.

In other news, the board:

• Voted to approve the superintendent’s nomination of Jamey Martin as assistant principal at the Guy E. Rowe Elementary School. Martin, who holds a master’s degree in teaching and learning from the University of Southern Maine and has worked as a grade-five teacher, gifted and talented and preschool teacher, also serves a Lisbon’s assistant recreation director;

• Accepted a bid of $97,000 to install heating, ventilation and air conditioning system at the Oxford Annex;

• Assigned lead teachers Jennifer Steven at Waterford Memorial School, Robert Ripley at Harrison Elementary School and Cathy Scribner at Otisfield Community School;

• Appointed Martha Thompson for a one-year position as interventionist at Agnes Gray Elementary School in West Paris; and

• Appointed 33 other employees, including classroom teachers, educational technicians and custodial and food service staff.

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School Administrative District 17 Director Michael Marshall of Norway asked for fellow directors Monday night to support his amendment to put $524,513 is state aid into the Capital Reserve Fund rather than return it to the taxpayers.

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