DIXFIELD — Regional School Unit 56 directors decided Tuesday to further study the impacts of two budget proposals for 2023-24, one with a 2.83% increase and one with a 2.5% increase over this fiscal year.

The budget approved for 2022-23 was $13.21 million.

The 2.83% increase would keep all employees, but not include $13,500 for the Jobs for Maine Graduates program, $54,000 for an initial payment for a new school bus, various site improvements, or a stipend for a Civil Rights teacher at Dirigo Elementary School in Peru.

Keeping the JMG program, bus payment, site improvements and stipend would add $112,485, Superintendent Pam Doyen said.

The district is uncertain about employee health insurance costs, which could be as much as 6% more than this fiscal year, Doyen said.

Directors also discussed the funding for a new bus garage that would be built in Dixfield if voters approve at the district’s budget hearing on May 23 at Dirigo High School. The district rents space at a garage in Dixfield, Doyen said.


“At $1.1 million,” she said, “it takes about 30 years to get back what we were currently paying in rent to be somewhere else but there are still some positives that we need to consider in terms of just the workspace (at a new garage),” Doyen said.

The district has $500,000 in a capital reserve account, and voters will be asked in June if they want to spend an additional $600,000-plus for the project, Doyen said.

“We’ve toured that garage we’re renting space out of right now,” Director Don Whittemore of Carthage said. “I would be surprised if it’s standing in the next five years. So, if we don’t put this other $600,000 into that account we’re going to be paying back in other ways.”

The June 13 budget ballot will also include a question on whether to accept a state loan of $214,750 for private bathroom stalls at Dirigo High School in Dixfield.

The Maine Department of Education approved the money from its School Revolving Renovation Fund. The district will be responsible to pay $67,582, or 31.47%, over five years. The state will “forgive” the remaining $147,168, or 68.53%, Superintendent Pam Doyen said at the Feb. 14 board meeting.

At an October 2022 board meeting, Doyen said staff came “across a situation where we have gender-expansive students who legally and rightfully can use the bathroom of their choice.” She said she had heard from people whose gender identity aligns with the sex they were assigned at birth who “were upset because students who are gender-expansive were using their bathrooms.” She said she understood their “concern and frustration” and discomfort.

At Tuesday’s meeting at Dirigo High School, Dixfield Selectman Richard “Dick” Pickett said, “Looking at the budget proposal and looking at the amounts of increases, and seeing how the inflation and everything that’s going on in the country and in our own state, and representing the taxpayers in the town of Dixfield, I find it very difficult to believe that we’re taking out over $200,000 to retrofit bathrooms.

“I’m concerned about the taxes in town. We’re trying to hold our budget too,” he said. “I’m concerned about something like this because quite frankly, personally, I don’t think it’s needed.”

The district includes Dixfield, Canton, Carthage and Peru.

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