DIXFIELD — It took nearly seven months and five referendums, but Regional School Unit 56 finally has an approved budget for this fiscal year, which ends June 30.

The vote was 505-454. The individual results were: Canton, 117-62; Carthage, 42-58; Dixfield, 201-133; and Peru, 145-201.

“We officially have an approved budget,” Superintendent Pam Doyen wrote in an email. “This is significant for our students, staff and communities as we can now focus on education and moving forward. I know how important the Dirigo schools are to these four communities and this process has never been about lack of support for our schools. We remain proud Dirigo Cougars.”

The $12.71 million budget is 3.5% more than for 2018-19 and represents an 11.% increase, on average, for the four towns.

Among the cuts to get to a 3.5% increase was eliminating the principal’s position at Dirigo High School in Dixfield. Doyen will add those duties to hers.

Lisa Twomey, who was hired as principal in August 2018, was given a 90-day notice that ends in late February, Doyen said Tuesday. Twomey, she said, has been on medical leave since late last year.

At the Peru Town Office on Tuesday evening, Ron Desroches said he voted against the budget because inflation is 2 or 3%, “so why should (the district) get more than that?”

Dexter and Darlene Berry of Canton stand outside the Town Office after voting Tuesday on a school budget for the fifth time since June 2018. Marianne Hutchinson/Rumford Falls Times

At the Canton Town Office, Dexter and Darlene Berry said they approved all five budget proposals. “It’s about time we get this thing over with; it’s crazy,” Dexter said.

“I think it’s too bad that people don’t think we need to make things good for the students,” Darlene said. “We need to educate our students and (there are) some things we need.”

Canton Selectman Carole Robbins said she also voted for the budget.

“The kids are our future,” and if the towns don’t pay for their good education now, they “will pay for it later in some fashion.”

Robbins also said the towns need good schools to attract families to the area.

The first budget of $13.27 million was rejected in June 2019. It was 8% higher than the year before and would have raised town assessments an average of nearly 23 percent. The second budget a month later dropped to $12.9 million, a 5% increase and a 15.6% average increase in assessments.

The third proposal in September remained at $12.9 million, while the fourth in November was slightly less at $12.79 million, a 4.1% increase an average increase in assessments of 13.64%.

Because the district did not have an approved budget to start the new fiscal year July 1, 2019, it has been legally operating at spending levels that represent about a 4% increase from 2018-19, Doyen said previously.

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