DIXFIELD — Directors of Regional School Unit 56 have adopted a fourth budget for the current school year, this one slightly lower than the last.

Three spending plans proposed by the board have been rejected by voters in the district towns.

The proposal of $12.79 million adopted Tuesday night represents a spending increase of 4.1% over last year. It would leave a previously budgeted Title I education technician position unfilled.

RSU 56 Director Angela Varnum, left, of Dixfield gives her opinion on the fourth-round school budget proposal Tuesday at Dirigo High School. Directors Samantha Noyes and Barry Prescott of Dixfield are seated near Varnum. Business Manager Mary Dailey is at center and Vice Chairwoman Deb Mooney of Peru is at her left. Marianne Hutchinson/Rumford Falls Times

A $12.9 million proposal — representing a 5.1% increase over last year — failed for a second time last week by a vote of 479-424 

The first proposal of $13.27 million represented an 8% increase from last year’s budget and an average increase in town assessments of nearly 23%. Voters rejected it 485-343 in June. 

A 4.1% school budget increase would mean an average increase in town assessments of 13.64% for the towns of Canton, Carthage, Dixfield and Peru.  

During Tuesday’s meeting, Superintendent Pam Doyen asked select board representatives from each of the towns to give their opinions on the school budget. 

Canton Selectman Scotty Kilbreth said his town approved all three previous budgets.

Canton, I believe would like to stay with 5% (increase),” Kilbreth said.  

Peru Board of Selectmen Chairwoman Raquel Welch said voters in that town rejected the third budget because “they felt that they weren’t listened to. You came back with the same exact budget, not looking at even making any type of change to that. 

“My plea to you tonight is (that you) do something with the budget — don’t put it back the same (as) it is,” Welch said. 

Dixfield Selectman Peter Holman said that board would try to work with whatever the directors came up with. 

“Whatever this board decides to go with tonight is what we’ll use to set (our town tax) rate,” Holman said. “If that rate is higher than whatever budget might get passed in the future, the extra money that will be collected will be set aside and be used for tax relief next year.” 

No Carthage official was at the meeting.

In addition to cutting the Title I ed tech position, directors have removed several positions from school administrators’ original requests, including a coaching and interventionist position at Dirigo Elementary School, a Title 1 ed tech at Dirigo Elementary, an alternative education ed tech at Dirigo High School, two teaching positions at the high school, a teacher at Dirigo Elementary, a special education teacher at TW Kelly Dirigo Middle School, after-school music programs and many supplies and programs. 

During Tuesday’s board of directors meeting, Director Angela Varnum of Dixfield suggested that the board “look outside the box” and reconsider their assistant principal and athletic director combined position at Dirigo High School. This fall the district hired Jessica McGreevy to fill an athletic director and assistant principal position at that school.   

Varnum said she researched the salaries of several positions at various schools in Maine and believed the district could save money by hiring athletic coordinators or enlisting teachers to work combined positions at the school.   

Superintendent Pam Doyen said she did not recommend cutting the athletic director/assistant principal position.

“We feel that everybody on this administrative team is working at capacity,” she said. “They all have multiple roles. We have asked them to pick up (roles) and pick up roles and they do it willingly.”  

Doyen added, “We need an (assistant principal) and there is no way we can run our schools without an (athletic director) and for what we get by having an AP/AD (combined). It supports the high school at such a different level that it’s worth the additional funding.”  

The board of directors plans to vote once more on the latest budget proposal at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 8, at Dirigo Elementary School. 

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