FARMINGTON — Regional School Unit 9 Superintendent Tina Meserve told directors Tuesday, June 23, that she’s confident voters will support the 2020-21 budget, which is nearly 2% lower than the board’s initial draft.

Meserve spoke Tuesday at the district hearing held via Zoom. It drew a total of 24 participants, including directors. No one had questions.

“Because our budget is a reduction of 1.93%, I feel like probably our communities have seen that we are being pretty fiscally conservative and have only provided a budget that meets our basic needs,” Meserve said.

She reviewed questions that will appear on the July 14 ballot asking for approval of a $38.23 million education budget and a $465,972 adult education budget. The RSU 9 2019-20 education budget was $37.73 million.

Question one asks for voters’ approval of the education budget for fiscal year 2020-21 and includes a breakdown of cost centers and their affiliated amounts. They will appear on ballots in the following order:

Regular instruction, $10.66 million; special education, $6.48 million; career and technical education,  $2.83 million; other instruction, $499,188; student and staff support, $3.08 million; system administration, $1,15 million; school administration, $1.50 million; transportation and buses, $2.41 million; facilities maintenance, $4.16 million; debt service and other commitments, $5.4 million; all other expenditures, $3,500.

Meserve clarified the more ambiguous cost centers such as regular instruction, which includes teacher salaries and classroom supplies and materials. The cost center named other instruction includes sports and extra-curricular programs.

“We have student and staff support” as a cost center, she said. “That covers things like nurses, instructional technology. It covers guidance, social works, it covers tuition for staff who are getting professional development. It covers library services, and it covers assessments we give to students. That’s often one area that people are often asking what that is. So that’s what students and staff support includes.”

She explained that the cost center named other expenditures is the budget’s contribution to the district’s food service department.

Question two on the ballot asks voters to approve appropriating $465,972 to the adult education budget and to raise $209,717 through funding from district municipalities.

“Sometimes I will have the question of how come we are appropriating more than we’re raising, and that’s because within adult ed. we have a lot of grant funds that also support adult education and some other areas that contribute to adult education,” Meserve said.

The hearing was a stark contrast to previous years’ in-person budget meetings that have ranged from 100 to 300 community members.

Nonetheless, Meserve was confident that, through Zoom budget meetings and updating the district website, voters understood the board’s proposed budget.

“So I am hopeful that it will pass because it is a pretty substantial reduction in our request over last year’s budget. So at this point, we are optimistic and feel like we have communicated well with the district.”

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