April 22, 2018
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Otis school budget approved, then rejected

By Rich Hewitt, BDN Staff

OTIS, Maine — First they yeaed it, then they nayed it.

At the annual town meeting earlier this month, voters here approved a proposed school budget for the coming school year, but on Tuesday they rejected it.

The decision leaves the town with little chance of adopting a new budget before the start of the new fiscal year on July 1.

At the annual town meeting on May 9, 78 registered voters approved the school budget which totaled $838,286.93. That represented an increase of $32,246, or about 4 percent, according to David Bridgham, Union 92 business manager. The amount the town would have raised from taxes would have decreased, he said.

The school department had a larger than usual balance forward, Bridgham said, which would offset the increase. The amount to be raised through taxes would have been $685,887.40, a decrease of $23,863.90, or about 3.4 percent.

On Tuesday, 42 people voted in the state-required budget validation referendum, which asked if they supported the budget approved at the town meeting. The vote was 25-17 against the budget.

The budget was very different this year because of the decision by Otis voters not to join Regional School Unit 24, which was formed with Ellsworth, Union 96 and some of the other Union 92 towns. The situation was further complicated by the fact that Otis co-owns the Beech Hill School building with the town of Mariaville, which voted to join the RSU.

State law requires schools to have a superintendent and, according to Bridgham, Otis school officials have contracted with RSU 24 for administrative services for the coming year. The RSU actually will be operating the school next year, he said.

“Otis is paying the RSU tuition to sent their kids there,” he said.

The tuition rate is set by the state and it accounts for about 90 percent of the budget, according to Bridgham. If the school committee attempts to reduce the budget, it will run up against those tuition costs.

“There’s 90 percent of the budget in just that,” Bridgham said. “They can’t change it much unless they know there’s going to be less students.”

Under state statutes, the town has to wait at least 10 days to submit a budget to the voters. But because of the posting requirements under state law, it does not appear likely the school department and the town could develop a new budget and schedule a special town meeting and then another budget validation vote before the start of the new school year.

Without a new budget, the budget from this school year will be in effect until a new budget is adopted, Bridgham said. The school committee’s next scheduled meeting will be in mid-June, but they could meet before that, he said.



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