Voters from the towns of Canton, Carthage, Dixfield and Peru approved Tuesday’s Regional School Unit 56 $12.97 million budget for 2021-22 by a vote of 354-163 during their referendum vote on Tuesday.

The tally in each of the towns was: Carthage 27-8, Dixfield 120-35, Canton 84-34 and Peru 123-86.

The district held to “a 0% budget-to-budget increase” from this year’s budget, Superintendent Pam Doyen said at the district’s annual school budget meeting on May 11. During that meeting and vote, residents from the four towns approved all of the 21 articles brought forward.

In Doyen’s comments prior to the May budget meeting vote, she said that although the district kept to no overall increase from this year’s budget, certain increases in some areas such as employee’s salaries were “estimated at about a $155,000 increase.”

Non-payroll increases include debt for Dirigo Elementary School in Peru, which is $21,630 more for 2021-22, auditing is up $3,600, and building insurance, which is up $3,680. There is also $102,000 more for the Special Education program’s out-of-district placement for some students.

On the revenue side, general-purpose aide from the government increased about $160,000. There was no increase in health insurance premiums, Doyen said.

During the budget vote in May, voters also approved transferring $200,000 from fund balances to the capital reserve account and spending up to $430,000 for improvements to the Dirigo High School gym floor and school roof. They also approved transferring up to $200,000 from fund balances to establish a technology reserve fund to purchase and maintain technology equipment and related accessories.

With the $12.97 million school budget for 2021-22, taxpayers in the towns of Dixfield and Peru will see decreases in their local tax assessments of 7.66% and 5.35%, respectively, while Canton and Carthage will see increases of 11.41% and 4.32%.

The towns of Canton and Carthage both have windmills on their lands, which caused them to have higher town valuations and therefore, higher tax assessments. During a school board meeting in March, Carthage Selectman Jan Hutchinson spoke about concerns residents had in regards to the proposed budget.

The Saddleback Ridge Wind turbines, built starting in 2015, are depreciating, Hutchinson said, while property taxes are increasing “immensely.”

“The townspeople are basically taxed to death and just can’t do it anymore,” he said.

Hutchinson added that compared to Dixfield, it costs, “almost three times as much,” to educate a student from Carthage because it’s a smaller town.

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