DIXFIELD — Regional School Unit 56 Superintendent Pam Doyen told directors Jan. 10 that she has serious concerns about the 2023-24 budget because of “uncontrollable increases” for fuels and utilities.

Specifically, she named heating oil, diesel fuel, gasoline, propane, water and sewer.

“I’m seriously concerned with those uncontrollable increases that it’s going to be a challenge to keep (the budget) as low as we have the last couple of years,” Doyen said.

This year’s budget, which ends June 30, is $13.21 million. The district includes Canton, Carthage, Dixfield and Peru.

Doyen listed some “positives” related to the budget, saying 55% of the cost of district programs and services could potentially be covered by the state, since Gov. Janet Mills is still in office.

The superintendent also said there were no unknown contract increases and the interest payment for Dirigo Elementary School in Peru is about $30,000 less going into next year. Also, there is $277,500 going forward as a result of previous years’ balances.


The district knows its negotiated contract increases, she said, but won’t know if employee health insurance costs will increase until sometime in March or April.

“The uncertainties are the thing that make it difficult this year,” Director Bruce Ross of Dixfield said. It’s going to be a rough budget year for energy costs, he said.

Budget presentations will begin Feb. 14. A districtwide budget meeting and vote will be held May 23 and the budget validation vote is set for June 13.

In other business, Doyen said the nonprofit Jobs for Maine Graduates is asking schools it serves to help pay the cost of its program, which teaches students about careers and prepares them to join the workforce. It has served Dirigo High School students since July 2017 at no cost, she said.

Since the program’s expansion and extended learning opportunities, the organization wants schools to consider the value of the program and pay part of it.

Doyen said it’s asking RSU 56 to eventually pay 33% of the cost, which would be up to $27,000. She called it a “relatively good deal for our school district to have that program for that cost.” It would be added to next year’s budget.


In another report to directors meeting at the high school, Nutrition Director Gena Cloutier said the district has transitioned from a summer feeding program to the National School Lunch Program.

“The biggest change that anybody would see is that we can’t send (meals home to students),” she said. “We are able, however, if school did close for a COVID reason, I would be able to get a waiver.”

The district includes the high school and T.W. Kelly Dirigo Middle School, both in Dixfield, and Dirigo Elementary School in Peru.

Cloutier said they averaged 310 students eating breakfast and 455 students eating lunch per day this year.

District enrollment as of December was 752 students.

Cloutier also said meal reimbursement rates this year are $2.76 for breakfast and $4.43 for lunch. Families still file applications for free and reduced-price meals but the money is coming from the state rather than the federal government, she said.

She also noted staff has been and making pizza crust, homemade meatballs, quesadillas and shepherd’s pie from scratch.

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