POLAND — Voters in Regional School Unit 16 will head to the polls Tuesday to deliver a decision on a proposed $24.3 million spending plan that will raise taxes in Minot, Poland and Mechanic Falls.

School officials said, though, they’re still hoping the state agrees to kick in more aid this year that would allow them to slice $685,000 from the $11.9 million they plan to raise in property taxes.

If the Legislature backs a proposal from Gov. Janet Mills to have the state cover 55% of the cost of K-12 education for the first time in Maine’s history, Superintendent Kenneth Healey said, it will make a significant difference on local tax bills.

Kenneth Healey, superintendent of RSU 16 RSU 16

Healey said he believes it is “very likely” the Legislature will go along with Mills’ request to increase the funding to 55%, a target that voters approved in a statewide referendum in 2004. The state has never yet complied with the referendum’s terms, leaving property taxpayers to fill the gap.

Healey said if lawmakers act swiftly enough, as he expects, the district will be able to reduce tax bills in Poland and Minot. The increase in Mechanic Falls will be lower.

But that’s only if voters endorse passage of Article 18 of the budget warrants that allows RSU 16 to apply the additional state aid to property tax relief, officials said.


Whatever voters may think of the rest of the budget, they said, “Article 18 for certain has to be passed,” Healey said during a budget information session recently.

The budget generally would maintain the status quo for programs and employees with the exception of adding a French teacher at Poland Regional High School.

Mary Martin, who chairs the school committee, said it was “a challenging budget year” given the pandemic and a reduction in state aid totals because 74 fewer students attended district schools this academic year.

Healey said “the real problem” officials faced is that with fewer students on the books, the state reduced its aid by almost $500,000.

Mary Martin, chair of the RSU 16 school board Screenshot from video

But 29 of those students have already reenrolled, he said, and many of the others are expected to return in the fall as pandemic fears and restrictions decrease.

As a result, Healey said, the district can’t pare teachers or services based on lower enrollment because it has every reason to think its student numbers won’t remain as low in the 2021-22 school year.


“We know we’re going to need them,” Healey said.

If the governor’s proposal is not enacted, district figures show a resident with property assessed at $150,000 would pay an additional $157.40 in Mechanic Falls, $107 extra in Minot and $51.56 more in Poland.

If lawmakers endorse Mills’ plan, the tax hike in Mechanic Falls would drop below $50 on a $150,000 property while taxpayers in the other two towns would see a reduction in what they pay for schools.

School Committee member Norm Beauparlant of Poland expressed concern about possible low turnout at the polls Tuesday.

“I hope we get a better turnout” than Lewiston did recently when fewer than 5% of voters showed up to approve its school budget, he said.

Voting takes place Tuesday at the town hall in each municipality from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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