BUCKSPORT, Maine — With little question or comment, a handful of residents from the four towns that make up RSU 25 on Wednesday approved the $12.8 million school budget for the coming school year.
At $12,813,196, the budget represents a $790,000 decrease from the current school budget, the largest single portion of that, $329,000, coming from the closure of the Orland Consolidated School at the end of this school year. The budget cuts came in response to the loss of about $900,000 in state subsidy for the coming year.
Other cuts hit all areas and grade levels in the RSU, according to Superintendent Jim Boothby, who previously reported reductions in teaching and support staff throughout the system. The budget cut the equivalent of 11.5 full-time positions.
In response to a question from a parent, Boothby explained that the main changes in school programs next year will come in music, English and math. Although initial plans had been to eliminate music in the younger grades, Boothby said the school system will be able to provide music for students in grades K-2, although in a reduced time period. In the middle school, he said, general music will no longer be offered in grades 7 and 8, although those students will have the option of participating in band or chorus.
Changes in the schedule also will provide additional time to focus on the core subjects of English and math, he said. The elimination of a teaching position in the business program will result in one part of that program being eliminated, he added.
In response to another question, Boothby explained that, although it was not specified in the articles that were voted on, the budget did include funds to continue a pre-kindergarten program.
The RSU funding formula for the four towns in the district is based 50 percent on student population and 50 percent on valuation. Bucksport, which saw a $50 million bump in its state valuation this year, will see an increase in its share of the budget, while the other three towns will see their assessments decrease.
Bucksport’s assessment is $5.4 million, an increase of $156,000 more than last year. Orland will pay $2.2 million, a decrease of $80,000; Prospect, $431,701, down $32,000; and Verona Island, $458,237, down $12,296.
Meanwhile, Orland residents will soon begin discussions to determine how best to use the town’s school building now that it will no longer be used as a school. The RSU will turn over ownership to the town at the end of the school year, but has agreed to continue to pay some of the cost of upkeep during a transition period.
The Orland selectmen have appointed an 11-member committee to investigate potential uses for the building. That committee has not yet met, according to Selectman Ed Rankin.