FARMINGTON — Superintendent Tina Meserve told Regional School Unit 9 Board of Directors that the district may receive less state funding for the 2021-2022 school year.

In her report Tuesday, Oct. 13, Meserve assured the board that there would be no financial losses to this school year’s funding, but next year has a projected, worst-case scenario of a $1.2 million curtailment.

One of the reasons for this possible decrease is due to the district’s vacant positions, she said.

There are currently 22 educational technician positions and two gifted and talented teacher positions that need to be filled. The district receives subsidies from the state Department of Education (DOE) for these positions but when they are vacant, RSU 9 loses that additional funding and has to compensate for them in its own budget.

“It is a high needs area in the state, so we’re not alone in trying to find gifted and talented teachers, and so COVID just adds to it, you’ve just got other variables that go into the workforce,” Meserve said in a follow-up phone interview.

Meserve attributed the high vacancy level of educational technicians to a number of factors. The position requires three years of college education, work authorization by the DOE and the patience to work with students who have significant challenges. The wage is also quite low with entry level educational technicians making less than $14 an hour.

“I believe the last two years there has been an average of 4-5% increase in our support staff wages, and that’s the average for all support staff,” Meserve said. “And the Board is aware that the wages need to be increased further and we will be negotiating the support staff contract this year for next year.”

Another reason for projected funding losses is due to the increase of students receiving homeschool instruction this year. The district receives enrollment-based subsidies from the DOE. There are typically 140-150 homeschooled students in the RSU 9 district but this year, Meserve estimates there are well over 200.

To determine subsidy amounts, the DOE takes a count average of enrolled students and staff every two years. October 1 is the count cut-off mark for the school year. Meserve said there is some discussion at the DOE about making subsidy requirement adjustments due to this year’s low-enrollment and staffing because of challenges posed by COVID-19.

There is conversation, but we have not heard if that’s likely or unlikely at this point,” Meserve said in regards to the DOE’s subsidy adjustments.  

According to Meserve, the district has been preparing for an eventual funding loss and she does not anticipate having to resort to layoffs or tax increases to satisfy a potential curtailment.

During the superintendent’s report, Meserve also addressed her decision to allow the children of select district employees to attend in-person classes five days a week rather than follow RSU 9’s hybrid model. Her decision was in response to retaining district employees who were facing childcare challenges.

After receiving push back for this decision by community members, Meserve said that the district will be seeking funding and additional options to offer RSU 9 parents with childcare options if the hybrid model is posing an economic hardship.

On another topic, Meserve reported that there are currently 70 students unaccounted for that are not enrolled at RSU 9 and are not registered as receiving home school instruction. The district is required to notify the Department of Health and Human Services about unaccounted students if guardians do not provide documentation of their child’s status.

Adult Education Director Nancy Allen announced that the department is now offering community support days on Thursdays. The adult education program offers free support with technology troubleshooting and career advising by appointment. Support services also include remote workshops such as a Zoom writing class.

Those interested should call the adult education program at 207-778-3460.

In other business, the Board approved new policies regarding unlawful harassment and sexual harassment of students, and Title IX sexual harassment complaint procedures.


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