RSU 24 voters to consider $32M budget

Posted May 25, 2010, at 10:06 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 12:09 p.m.

HANCOCK, Maine — Residents of the 12 municipalities in Regional School Unit 24 are scheduled to meet this week to decide whether to approve a proposed $32 million district budget for the 2010-2011 academic year.

The vote will be held at 6:30 p.m. today at Hancock Grammar School. A separate validation vote on the budget will be held as part of the statewide primary election on Tuesday, June 8, according to RSU 24 Superintendent William Webster.

Also on June 8, voters in RSU 24 towns will be asked whether the RSU should suspend the practice of holding budget validation ballot votes in 2011, 2012 and 2013, Webster said.

The overall annual budget of $32.3 million is expected to stay approximately the same as it is now. Because of changes in state aid and the availability of undesignated fund balance, however, RSU 24 towns will be asked to come up with $2.5 million more in funding for the district than they did last year.

Webster said the state is reducing some funding by $1.2 million but is picking up the district’s tab on $1.8 million in new debt for the 2010-2011 academic year. RSU 24 will have to pay an added $2 million in debt service, which is the same amount in the current budget, he said.

A major difference between the current and proposed budgets is that the RSU does not have $3.6 million in undesignated fund balance it can use to reduce its assessments to its member towns, as it did a year ago, Webster said.

Though the state will provide more in general purpose aid to RSU 24 than it has this year, the loss of the undesignated fund balance means the district’s overall assessment is expected to increase. The total assessment is budgeted to increase from $19.3 million to $21.8 million, an increase of about $2.5 million.

As a result, nearly all RSU 24 towns are expected to have increased assessments for the coming academic year, according to the superintendent.

Ellsworth, the largest municipality in the district, is expected to see its share of the RSU budget increase from $7.2 million to $8.17 million. Waltham, the smallest town, will see its assessment grow from $197,000 to $270,000.

Lamoine is the only town with a decreasing assessment. Its share of the 2009-2010 budget is $2,098,288, but for the coming academic year it is expected to be $2,045,988, or about $52,000 less than it is now.

These assessments do not include the RSU’s proposed adult education budget, which is expected to decrease overall by $42,000. Ellsworth’s share of the adult education budget is expected to drop by nearly $18,000. Six other towns also will see their share of the district’s adult education budget decrease, while five will see their shares stay at $7,000.

Webster said some RSU 24 towns last year established their own reserves they can use for their assessments, which means those towns might not need to tax their residents for the full amount of their shares of the RSU budget.

In a newsletter mailed recently to residents, Webster indicated that RSU 24, which was created last year when several smaller school districts merged, has been able to save about $800,000 by consolidating purchasing and central office services. With those savings, the RSU has been able to retain 15 to 20 total teaching positions at its 11 schools, he indicated.

Still, RSU 24 is likely to see reductions in state aid in the coming years, Webster wrote, which means the district will have to consider consolidating schools or programs after the 2010-2011 school year.

More than 19,000 people are estimated to live in the towns served by RSU 24. As of early April, 2,670 total pupils attended the district’s 11 schools.

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