Carol Roach of Peru asks a question regarding facilities maintenance during Wednesday night’s RSU 56 annual budget meeting. Bruce Farrin/Rumford Falls Times

DIXFIELD — Voters in Regional School Unit 56 approved a $12.9 million spending plan Wednesday night for the 2019-20 school year, which began July 1.

The budget must next be approved in referendums Tuesday in each of the four member towns: Canton, Carthage, Dixfield and Peru.

The voting locations and hours: Canton Town Office, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Carthage Town Office, 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.; Dixfield American Legion, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and Peru Town Office, noon to 7 p.m.

On June 11, voters in the four towns rejected a proposed $13.27 million budget, an 8% increase from 2018-19. The new budget is a 5% increase and represents an average increase of 15.6% in assessments to the towns.

With limited discussion, voters passed the first 14 warrant articles.

Then, on article 15, which summarized the proposed school budget, Raquel Welch, chairwoman of the Peru Board of Selectmen, asked residents to consider an amendment to reduce the spending increase from 5 percent to 4 percent — a reduction of $125,000.

Following debate led by several teachers and school board members advising against it, the amendment failed and the article was then passed as presented.

Article 14, which appropriated $3.25 million in additional local funds, was the lone article that required a written ballot. It passed 32-26.

Board Chairwoman Barbara Chow said there are built-in costs each year — including salaries and benefits, heating oil and diesel fuel — that cause the budget to increase.

To maintain programming for 2019-20, she said, a 6% budget increase would have been required had the district’s health insurance not come in at a 0% increase.

Chow said in addition to the increased costs, the district will receive $289,577 less in state subsidy in 2019-20 than it received in 2018-19. She said this affects the amounts that are assessed to the district’s four towns.

The decrease in state subsidy, she said, is partially due to the town’s increased valuations, which are set by the state.

RSU 56 Superintendent Pam Doyen said anyone with comments or questions about the budget should view a video on the district’s website — www.rsu56.org — and at the RSU 56 Facebook page.

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