WALES — The Regional School Unit 4 board of directors approved a $21.3 million spending plan Wednesday, representing a 9% increase from the current school budget.

Since it was first proposed in March, the board has reduced the spending plan by $181,000.

The state will fund just over half of the district’s proposed funding, with Litchfield seeing a local share increase of $508,387, Sabattus $584,231, and Wales $224,225.

Superintendent Andrew Carlton previously noted the steep increase is rare for the district. In the past six years, the budget has risen by an average of just 0.67% each year.

He noted that there is very little, if anything, the district could do to reduce the budget further without cutting people and programs.

“There really aren’t places to cut in this budget unless you cut people,” he said. “When you think about a budget that is up $1.7 million and $1.5 (million) of it is salary and benefits, the only way that you’re going to drop that number … would be to cut positions and programs,” noting that the rest of the increase is mostly due to rising fuel costs.


“That would be a huge detriment to our students, it just would,” he added.

At the last meeting, Litchfield director Kristy Ouellette asked Carlton to calculate the estimated cost for adding three behavioral interventionists to the district. The district has seen a rise in behavioral problems this year, similar to other schools in Maine.

Adding three behavioral interventionists, who help students manage and resolve problematic behaviors, would cost the district roughly $262,000, Carlton reported.

“It’s a big ask,” he said. “I will say, behaviors are rough right now, they really are. And so, consequently, while positions like this make good sense, I don’t know that this budget can sustain it. Therein lies the issue.”

Several of the directors agreed, and the proposal ultimately did not go to a vote.

“I have concerns both ways,” director Jennifer Waterman of Sabattus said. “I recognize that it’s a need that’s extreme now, it’s not going to go away over night, but I also know that this year, again, has been like no other … I don’t want to do a knee-jerk reaction and do something that’s going to compromise passing the budget. This is a very big ask, frankly.”


“I wish that I could say to Jen, ‘yeah it’s going to be so much better next year,” Ouellette said. “I don’t think it’s going to be better, I actually think it actually could be worse. … I think this is a really important piece because our kids are not OK, our teachers are not OK.”

She agreed that the cost was high, but asked board members to continue to consider how the district can increase its support for students and staff.

Pete Staples of Sabattus, a parent, told the board he wouldn’t mind paying his share to provide extra support for students and staff.

Chairman Robert English told Staples that modifications to the budget can be made by community members at the district budget meeting the evening of May 18 at Oak Hill High School. If there’s enough support at the meeting, residents could potentially add funding for behavioral interventionists to the budget.

“What we decide right now isn’t necessarily the end of it all,” English said.

Carlton confirmed that there is money budgeted for a resource officer from the Sabattus Police Department, and the district expects that position to be filled by Patrol Officer Magan Brown come fall. The police department first needs to fill two vacant positions, he added.

At the meeting, Carlton also announced his resignation. He recently accepted a new job as Gardiner’s city manager.

Carlton’s last day with the district will be May 20. He is set to begin working for the city June 6, according to the Kennebec Journal.

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