ST. ALBANS, Maine — Although it doesn’t have a board of directors yet, or bylaws, or a meshed system of policies, the brand-new RSU 19 has a budget.
About 70 voters attended a town meeting-style referendum Monday night, passing all 18 budget articles in less than 20 minutes. Moderator Joshua Tardy kept the action flowing and, except for two short speeches by Palmyra residents, all articles were passed without discussion.
RSU 19 consists of six SAD 48 towns and two SAD 38 towns. The voter turnout was extremely light in all eight communities. The number of voters for each town was: SAD 48 — Corinna, 8; Newport, 12; Plymouth, 6; Hartland, 3; St. Albans, 11; and Palmyra, 17; and SAD 38 — Etna, 4; and Dixmont, 9.
The only resistance to passing the budget came from a small group of five Palmyra residents.
Palmyra Selectman Michael Cray said residents were stretched to the limit financially. In Palmyra’s annual town report this year, there were seven pages with 50 names on each page listing people delinquent on their taxes, Cray said.
He commended the school board for working hard, but even with state subsidies, federal stimulus funds and savings realized through the merger of SADs 38 and 48, Cray said his town’s assessment rose by $61,402.
“At some point, we have to say enough is enough,” Cray said.
Palmyra resident Hadley Smith, who has been extremely critical of the school budget over the past decade, reminded the board, “We are in a local, national and international recession. The board failed to ask itself if a budget increase was appropriate.”
In his explanation to voters, RSU 19 Superintendent William Braun said the $22.8 million budget represents a $459,370 increase over last year’s.
RSU 19 is receiving $336,000 in federal stimulus funds that were used to offset local taxation.
As voted on Monday, the 2009-10 budget would see increases of $83,069 in Corinna; $155,545 in Newport; $61,402 in Palmyra; and $87,897 in St. Albans.
Dixmont’s assessment would drop by $22,207; Etna’s by $41,688; Hartland’s by $85,3345; and Plymouth’s decrease would be $5,562.
Braun said the RSU saved approximately $1.3 million by consolidating the two districts, mostly by combining administrators and service providers.
Monday’s vote was the first part of the two-part budget process. Voters now must ratify the action at a district referendum, which is set for Tuesday, June 23, in each of the district’s town. The ballot will contain one question which will allow for a yes or no vote on the entire $22.8 million.