TW Kelly Dirigo Middle School teacher Bethany Meehan-Poulin, standing, speaks Tuesday to the RSU 56 board of directors.

PERU — The Regional School Unit 56 board of directors on Tuesday unanimously approved a $12.79 million budget — the fourth spending plan proposed for 2019-20.

The budget represents a 4.1% increase to last year’s spending.

The increase would mean an average increase of 13.64% to the assessments of Canton, Carthage, Dixfield and Peru.

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

An Dixfield resident attending Tuesday’s board meeting said: “With the increase in taxes to 5%, how are the elderly going to pay the extra amount of money that they’re going to have to fork over for the taxes? Are they going to have to give up food or fuel for their house or medicines? How are they going to pay the extra? I think there should be some sort of exemption for people that are on social security that cannot pay the extra.

“I myself know that if the taxes continue to go up I will be selling my place and leaving town; I can’t continue. I cannot continue to have my taxes increase every year.”

A budget validation meeting for the 2019-20 budget is planned for 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 29 at Dirigo High School in Dixfield, and a budget referendum vote has been set for Nov. 5 in the four RSU 56 towns.

In other matters, the board approved a five-day Science, Technology, Engineering and Math trip to New York City for a group of 20 RSU 56 middle and high school students.

T.W. Kelly Dirigo Middle School teacher Bethany Meehan-Poulin told the board the trip includes a workshop at the Museum of Mathematics and a Central Park tour, among several other activities.

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