RSU 56 Superintendent Pam Doyen speaks at the school budget meeting and vote Tuesday at Dirigo High School in Dixfield. Seated, from left, are Business Manager Mary Dailey and board of directors Chairwoman Barbara Chow of Dixfield. Marianne Hutchinson/Rumford Falls Times

DIXFIELD — A $12.79 million budget for Regional School Unit 56 was approved by voters Tuesday marking the fourth try to get a spending plan for fiscal year 2019-20.

A validation referendum will be held at polling stations in Canton, Carthage, Dixfield and Peru on Nov. 5.

The budget is 4.1% higher than in 2018-19 and represents an average increase of 13.64% in town assessments.

Donna Errington of Peru casts her vote Tuesday at the RSU 56 budget meeting at Dirigo High School in Dixfield. Voters approved the $12.79 million proposal on the fourth try since June. Marianne Hutchinson/Rumford Falls Times

The original proposal of $13.27 million was rejected June 11, the second proposal of $12.9 million was rejected July 30, and the third proposal of $12.9 million was rejected Sept. 17.

Because the district did not have an approved budget to start the new fiscal year July 1, it has been legally operating at spending levels that represent about a 4% increase from 2018-19, Superintendent Pam Doyen said.

At Tuesday night’s board of directors meeting and budget vote at Dirigo High School, Doyen listed cuts made from the original $13.27 million proposal:

  • 1.75 teacher positions at the high school;
  • A coaching interventionist position at Dirigo Elementary School;
  • A Title 1 educational technician position at the elementary school;
  • An Alternative Education educational technician position at the high school;
  • A teaching position at the elementary school;
  • A special education teaching position at the middle school
  • After-school music; and
  • Many school supplies and programs.

Some residents said they don’t think the budget increases are sustainable. A Dixfield resident said the district needs to look at ways to possibly join RSU 73 in Jay for a while or rejoin RSU 10 in Rumford.

Canton, Carthage, Dixfield and Peru withdrew from RSU 10 in 2016 in an effort to gain local control and save money.

Marianne Young of Carthage, a former school board member, said she and others had received letters from unknown sources in their mailboxes saying “come vote on Nov. 5; we must stop them.”

“My concern is that it feels to me like it’s the community against the school board, and being a former school board member I know that that’s not the intention of what’s going on here,” she said.

“We want what’s best for our kids and a lot of the questions here should be put to the state because a lot of (the problem) is the local share and the subsidy we’re not getting from the state anymore,” Young said. “Taxes are always gonna go up. Most of these questions should be put to our representatives.”

According to Doyen, state funding for RSU 56 is down $289,577 this year from last year.

The times and locations for voting Nov. 5 are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Canton Town Office, Carthage Town Office, American Legion Hall in Dixfield and Peru Town Office.

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