$21.6M RSU 19 budget passes first test with voters at hearing

Posted June 04, 2010, at 1:23 a.m.

NEWPORT, Maine — The 2011 RSU 19 budget proposal breezed through its first test among voters Thursday with little opposition and no changes.

Approximately 58 people gathered at Nokomis Regional High School to decide on the district’s 17-question budget proposal for fiscal year 2011, which begins July 1. The $21.6 million proposed budget is about 4 percent lower than the current year. Despite the lower number, the amount to be raised from local property taxes is proposed to increase in five of the eight towns in RSU 19. Newport, St. Albans, Palmyra, Plymouth and Etna would see their share of the school budget increase an average of 4 percent. Corinna, Hartland and Dixmont would see an average decrease of 2.3 percent.

There was little discussion during the meeting, which lasted less than an hour. Hadley Smith of Palmyra was one of the only people who voiced any criticism.

“I’d like to know why the board did not target a zero-percent tax increase,” said Smith. “In a severe recession, there’s no reason for increasing taxes at all.”

Superintendent William Braun responded that the school board’s priority was to enact a budget with the lowest possible tax increase that didn’t decimate important educational programs. To accomplish that, the 2011 budget eliminated 14.5 teachers, closes Palmyra Consolidated School and reduces spending on supplies, opera-tions and maintenance. Overall, the proposed budget is $585,000 less than the current year.

“We wanted to get as close to zero as we possibly could,” said Braun.

The budget faces one more vote on Tuesday, when voters across the district will go to the polls to decide on final enactment.

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