ROCKLAND, Maine — Residents from all six towns in Regional School District 13 agreed Wednesday night to keep next year’s school budgets at about $25.9 million.
While the school board had recommended the same amount, residents asked that about $30,000 be taken from a budget line reserved for a new volunteer coordinator position and given instead to school band programs.
The school board does not have to respect the wishes of the 80 or so voters from Wednesday’s meeting. But the people from St. George who pushed for the restoration of their band program were tentatively pleased Wednesday.
The school board decided to cut St. George School’s band program from three days a week to one. The board also planned to reduce programs at Rockland District Middle School and Thomaston Grammar School.
“It’s the lifeblood of our school,” St. George parent Jennifer Garrett said. According to Garrett, 90 percent of her town’s fifth graders are in band and 70 percent of St. George’s middle school students are in band.
The annual budget meeting allows locals to put money in and take money out of certain budget lines. But just because voters added about $30,000 into the “regular instruction” line doesn’t mean the board will spend it on band programs as requested.
“It would be disingenuous if they didn’t honor it,” said the chair of the St. George board of selectmen, Bill Reinhardt.
The amendment to the budget was met with both support and frustration by the school board, which held about a dozen of the 80 or so votes in the Rockland District High School auditorium Wednesday night.
“I missed the last budget meeting because I went to St. George to hear their band,” said board member Arvilla Collins of Thomaston. “I haven’t heard anything like what I heard from that band that night. There are things we can take out of the budget to keep their band at 100 percent.”
But Esther Kilgour of Rockland did not support adding anything to the budget.
“For every dollar raised in our budget, 26 cents will be raised by Rockland,” Kilgour said. “The city can no longer make up for the expenditures of the school district. They can go no further.”
The citizens voted 34-28 to add enough money to keep the bands in the grammar schools at the same level they are currently.
To compensate for this, they also voted to take that same amount of money out of a different budget line that had been designated for a volunteer coordinator staff position. The school district currently does not have such a position.
The budget breakdown for each town is: Cushing $2.2 million, Owls Head $1.7 million, Rockland $8.1 million, St. George $3 million, South Thomaston $2 million, and Thomaston $3.9 million for a total of $20.9 million. The total RSU 13 budget is actually $25.9 million, but that does not account for income the school district gets through the state subsidy and other sources.