NEWPORT, Maine — The Regional School Unit 19 budget appeared headed toward approval by voters late Tuesday night, a sign for Superintendent William Braun that despite the poor economy and one of the worst budget years the area has seen in recent memory, taxpayers still support their schools.
With only the small towns of Plymouth and Hartland not yet submitting their voting results, the vote total was 1,375 in favor of the budget and 922 opposed. Braun said he didn’t think it was possible for voters in the two small towns to reverse the tally from the other six towns in the district.
“It’s a fair budget and the best we could do,” said Braun. “No one wants a tax increase, but I think the support is there for the kids and their education.”
The $21.6 million budget is about 4 percent lower than this year, though taxes are set to increase in five of the eight towns in the district. To achieve those numbers, the district will cut more than a dozen teachers and staff, close Palmyra Consolidated School and significantly curtail spending in several other categories.
Braun cautioned, however, that the tough budget decisions might not be over. Government officials said this week that the fiscal year 2011 budget might face a shortfall of up to $85 million because Congress hasn’t extended enhanced Medicaid payments. In addition, an accounting error led to a $2.5 million shortfall in an educational grant program. Braun said he was unsure how those shortfalls would affect the district’s budget.
“We know from the news this morning that we could be facing another cut from the governor,” said Braun. “We just don’t have any more margin to work with.”