JAY — Superintendent Scott Albert told directors of Regional School Unit 73 on Thursday night that if the current district budget is maintained for 2021-22, $597,000 would have to be cut from the proposed spending plan.

“I went through supplies, equipment, repair lines, everything except special education and cut 10%,” Albert said. “Even after that, we’d lose four teachers, two education technicians and a bus monitor just to get us on even ground.

“There may be a year that will have to happen,” he said. “I don’t think this is the year.”

Unlike towns, school districts can only carry over 3% of unspent money annually, Albert said. After that, the district has three years to spend anything over that, he noted.

Director Michael Morrell of Jay, who asked for the information at the last board meeting, thanked Albert and his staff for taking time to gather the information. It shows just how damaging it would be for the district, he said.

“I think a 0% budget is one of the worst-case scenarios we could do for our district,” Director Phoebe Pike of Livermore Falls said. “We know what our towns, our state is going through.

“I’ve seen such a change,” she said. “In literally seven months we went from telling teachers they’re heroes … we’ll do anything for you. Then when the budget rolls around, suddenly people are saying it’s just too much.”

This isn’t just about taxes going up, Pike said. “It’s about an investment in our children’s future as well as our communities themselves. When I hear people saying the budget needs to be cut, I’m extremely concerned. Looking at those numbers, we need to invest in our schools, our school district, our communities because if we don’t, no one else is going to.”

Albert also shared a report on the state’s calculation for funding public education for prekindergarten to grade 12 specifically for RSU 73.

The state allows one educational technician for every 316 students at the high school and one for every 312 students at the middle school, he said.

“We have quite a few more than that,” Albert said. “For nurses, the state thinks it’s Ok to have 800 students per nurse.”

He said he was hoping, knowing all the extra work nurses are doing this year because of the pandemic,  they would increase the number of nurses. The state didn’t, he said.

Directors will finalize the budget and the amounts each town needs to contribute at a meeting at 6 p.m. March 11 at Spruce Mountain Middle School. Attendance is limited to 50 and the meeting will be available via Zoom. The storm date is March 18.

In other business, Chairman Robert Staples of Jay announced Mason Labonte has been made an honorary member of the board. He attended the meeting via Zoom and his mother, high school social worker Kristy Labonte, presented him with the certificate. Mason has regularly attended board meetings for some time.

“Mason, that is only good until you become a junior when you can actually apply and become a school board member,” Staples said.

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