RSU 24 voters approve $35.4 million budget

Posted May 26, 2011, at 7:53 p.m.

HANCOCK, Maine — Approximately 100 people attended the annual RSU 24 budget meeting Wednesday night and approved a $35.4 million budget for the 2011-2012 academic year.

The meeting was held at Hancock Grammar School, which is one of eight K-8 schools in the district, which was created in 2009. The RSU schools also include Ellsworth High School and Sumner Memorial High School in Sullivan.

It was Hancock residents who raised the most objections to the budget proposal Wednesday night, because their municipal share of education costs is increasing by more than half a million dollars. Hancock’s share of the 2011-2012 budget is $2.8 million, the second highest among the 12 RSU member municipalities after Ellsworth, which is contributing $7.9 million.

Hancock First Selectman Gary Hunt raised several objections and, when it came time to vote on particular budget items, made repeated attempts to amend them to lower amounts. He said Hancock residents have said they are worried about their property tax bills, which help fund the RSU budget.

“They’re having trouble paying their mortgages. They’re having trouble paying their medical bills,” Hunt said. “I don’t know what to tell them.”

Hunt and others who supported his amendments were outvoted each time, however, by voters from mostly other RSU member towns who supported the $35.4 million budget proposed by the RSU board. Several people in favor of the $35.4 million budget said that, if it were reduced, pupils throughout the whole district would be adversely affected.

Wayne Enman, the RSU’s interim superintendent, said the RSU board was meticulous in trying to keep the budget in check. Even so, the $35.4 million budget is about 10 percent higher than the current year budget of $32.3 million.

The $35.4 million budget includes a $1.8 million debt payment on the new Ellsworth Elementary Middle School, for which the RSU expects to be fully reimbursed by the state, RSU officials have said. Not including that payment,  the 2011-2012 budget is increasing 5.8 percent over the current budget.

“We’ve tried to cut spending wherever we can,” Enman said. “Any cuts would result in reductions in programming.”

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