Superintendent says RSU 1 cuts will have impact

Posted March 29, 2011, at 9:11 p.m.
Last modified March 30, 2011, at 8:52 a.m.

BATH, Maine — Regional School Unit 1 Superintendent William Shuttleworth plans to meet today with leaders of the district’s teachers union, the Sagadahoc Education Association, to complete a list of which faculty positions would be cut under each of three different 2011-12 budget scenarios he is preparing to present during a hearing on Wednesday.

Shuttleworth told the RSU 1 board of directors Monday night at its regular meeting that there’s no way to avoid staff and program reductions during the upcoming budget cycle, in which the district must absorb at least $1.55 million in lost state and federal subsidies.

“In the last couple of years, we were able to keep the cuts far away from the kids,” the superintendent told the board Monday. “That won’t be the case this year.”

Ideas for how to handle the looming financial crisis began bubbling up Monday, two days before the official kickoff of the board’s budget deliberations. A public hearing on the potential 2011-12 district spending plans is scheduled to take place at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Morse High School.

Charles Durfee of Woolwich urged the board to consider a pay freeze for all RSU 1 employees, a suggestion he also made last year while serving as the board’s chairman.

“Some of these ideas I and others advocated for last year, but weren’t adopted,” Durfee, who did not run for re-election in November, told the board Monday. “Some got caught up in the contract negotiation process and were lost. Also, [Shuttleworth], the administration, staff and board were able to put forward some creative solutions that minimized the impact of last year’s situation. However, this year is substantially worse, and is the ‘cliff year’ that has been anticipated for a long time.”

Durfee said all stakeholders in the school budget must share the burden of the budget dilemma, from students who will lose teachers and programs, to employees who may have to forgo raises, to taxpayers who may have to pay a little extra.

The former board chairman suggested adopting three furlough days for school employees to cut $330,000, not replacing retirees to save about $200,000 and freezing wages for all employees to save $348,000.

Combined with a 3 percent increase in local taxes for education, which he said would generate $490,000 in revenue, and another $100,000 in cuts to programs and personnel, Durfee said his plan would fill $1.468 million of the 2011-12 budget gap.

Morse High School English teacher Tom Rackmales told the board Monday he would support a pay freeze and urged the board not to increase pay for “Schedule B” positions, such as sports coaches, as the board tackles the 2011-12 budget.

“I’m a Schedule B recipient and there doesn’t need to be a raise,” Rackmales told the board. “I think there should be a pay freeze as a fundamental step toward shared sacrifice by all of us.”

Timothy Harkins, chairman of the RSU 1 board, said the board asked Shuttleworth last month to prepare three budgets — scenarios that reflect a 3 percent tax increase, a 2 percent increase and a zero increase in local tax commitment.

See more news from The Times Record at http://www.timesrecord.com/.

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