Mary Martin, chairwoman of the Regional School Unit 16 board of directors, leads Monday’s online meeting via Zoom. Submitted photo

POLAND — The biggest news emerging from the RSU 16 school board meeting Monday was a decision to hold a graduation ceremony for seniors outside the high school June 6.

Cari Medd, principal of Poland Regional High School, said details will be worked out soon, but the plan is to use the student parking lot for the ceremony.

She said that if it rains June 6, the graduation ceremony will be pushed to the next day.

The principal said she hopes to inform parents and students of more details as soon as the end of this week.

In addition to graduation plans, the RSU 16 directors heard complaints about its proposed $24.2 million budget, which would increase spending in Mechanic Falls, Minot and Poland by 7.6% for fiscal year 2020-21, which begins July 1.

Poland Select Board Chairperson Mary-Beth Taylor said the board’s silence about the possible tax hike “seems like you’re being insensitive” given the difficulties that many people are facing because of the coronavirus pandemic.

She said some people are going to have to choose between paying taxes or feeding their family.

Lisa Cesare of Minot, who served on the panel’s budget subcommittee, said the board ought to “go back and take a peek” at its options to reduce spending.

She said that with “all the unknowns coming” due to COVID-19, the school budget ought to be pared to include only pay hikes for teachers and staff, as well as cost-of-living increases for administrators.

“I’m just very, very concerned the residents will not be able to handle such a big increase,” Cesare said.

Board Chairwoman Mary Martin said that dealing with the spending plan has been tough because of the delays caused by the pandemic. She said members will assess what’s possible after a June 2 informational session.

Norm Beauparlant, a board member from Poland, said the board hasn’t made any decision on the budget. It merely approved sending a budget plan to the hearing. It won’t formalize a budget until after that hearing, he said.

Taylor said, though, that members could speak up sooner.

“When things are quiet,” she said, it seems as though the panel isn’t being sensitive to the needs of a struggling community.

As it stands, the proposed budget would increase property taxes by $62.69 per $100,000 in assessed value in Poland, $18.42 in Mechanic Falls and $61.61 in Minot.


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