OLD TOWN – RSU 34’s Board of Directors last week voted to recommend a budget of  $20,425,000 for the 2019-20 school year.

The current year’s budget is $19,715,000; the proposed budget for the next school year represents a gross budget increase of $710,000, or 3.6 present.

“We have seen increases in fixed costs, similar to those being felt by local homeowners as well as increases in salary and benefits as outlined in the negotiated agreements with employees,” said Superintendent David Walker in a budget narrative. “Health insurance premium costs, shared between employees and the RSU, increased 0 percent for the fourth year in a row which was welcome news as we had seen much higher premium increases in years prior. I applaud the efforts of all staff for their participation in our wellness programs resulting in lower loss ratios and taking control of health care insurance premium rate increases.”

Walker said school officials attempted to limit the impact on students while at the same time minimizing the impact on the property taxpayers in local communities in preparing the budget.

Funding for the proposed $20,425,000 budget will come from multiple sources. Walker said the forecast is for $1,871,252.54 in tuition revenue, $231,743.80 in reimbursements and revenues for other educational services, and $12,174.56 in adult education subsidy. General Purpose Aid for Education provided by the State of Maine as calculated using the Essential Programs and Services Funding model based on the Governor’s proposed budget will provide $10,386,776.50.

In order to receive this funding from the state, all towns must raise though a local property tax a required local share. The required local share is set by the dtate this year at 8.28 mils (based on the total property valuation of each member community) for the coming year. Using this formula, Alton will be required to raise $345,828, Bradley will have to raise $917,010 and Old Town will need to raise $3,708,612.00.

Finally, local additional funds will be assessed to the member communities through the cost sharing formula that was developed as a part of the organizational structure of the RSU adopted by voters in January of 2008. This local assessment will raise $1,706,546.54 to balance the FY20 budget.

Walker said two factors are critical in the computation of state subsidy as well as local additional cost sharing –  total local property valuation and student population. Increases or decreases in the total local assessment to the member communities of the RSU are rarely equal as they are the result of relative changes in student population and property valuation of the member towns. The total amount assessed will increase by $267,917.84 or a net increase of 3.84 percent in assessments to member communities.

“Overall, we feel this budget reflects a responsible effort to maintain quality educational programs while recognizing the extreme pressures on the local property tax base and the impact on the local communities,” said Walker.

Included in the warrant is an article that seeks voter approval to utilize unallocated fund balances and reserve funds to complete major facilities repairs.

“This year we worked to begin the necessary work to explore renewal/renovation options at Leonard Middle School. Leonard Middle School was built and opened in 1965 and is due for renewal in order to meet the educational needs of our middle level population today,” said Walker. “We are on track to complete phase one renovations during the summer and early fall of 2019. We are currently working with architects and engineers to plan Phase II to be completed during the summer of 2020. As a result of consistent fiscal management and facilities planning, we are able to complete these important facilities projects without impact on the annual budget and therefore on the amounts assessed to member communities.”

The annual school budget meeting for Regional School Unit No. 34 will be held on Wednesday, May 29 at 7 p.m. at the Old Town High School Cafeteria. The warrant of articles for discussion at this meeting are included in the current edition of Community Connections. This is the meeting where residents of Alton, Bradley, and Old Town have the opportunity to get information, approve the recommended budget, or make changes in the spending plan. Walker said it is important that the public attends and participates. Copies of the proposed budget are available from the Superintendent of Schools office at 156 Oak Street or at www.rsu34.org.

Additionally, current Maine law requires that the action taken at the annual budget meeting be validated at a referendum. This year that validation referendum will be held in conjunction with the state-wide referendum held on June 11.

 

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