May 24, 2018
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Rockland area school board puts $250,000 back into budget

By Stephen Betts, BDN Staff

ROCKLAND, Maine — The Regional School Unit 13 board tentatively agreed Monday night to add more than $250,000 to the budget originally submitted by the administration.

The majority of board members voiced support for the positions and services covered by the additional spending.

Even with the extra funding, the district will eliminate nearly 20 positions.

The board voted 8-3 to give support to the proposed 2012-2013 budget of $26,470,403. This represents a 2 percent increase in spending from the approved 2011-2012 budget.

The budget, however, will require an additional $817,416 in property taxes from the six communities in RSU 13. Rockland will see the largest increase, having to pay an additional $310,832. St. George would pay $133,562 more under the proposed budget, Thomaston an additional $127,801, Owls Head an extra $127,152, South Thomaston an additional $114,456, and Cushing $3,613 more.

The increased reliance on property taxes is due to the loss of $470,000 in federal stimulus money and the loss of $370,000 in state education subsidies.

Board member Loren Andrews of Cushing reminded board members that the district has cut millions out of the budget since RSU 13 formed three years ago out of the merger of SAD 5 and SAD 50.

“We can’t go too far in affecting the education,” Andrews said.

But the board members voting against the $250,517 in additions Monday night said local property owners could not afford any more taxes.

“The people I’ve talked to are having a hard time paying their taxes. They were pleased with the original budget,” said board member Donald Robishaw Jr. of Rockland. He said people are making choices between buying food or medications and paying taxes.

Also voting against the additions were board members Brian Messing of Rockland and Darryl Sanborn of Thomaston.

Among the positions funded by the additional money is the new post of a clinical coordinator to serve teachers who deal with students with behavioral problems. The board also added a world languages teacher for the elementary schools.

Among the positions that had been proposed for elimination but were put back in the budget were a librarian for the high school, a part-time custodian for the Rockland District Middle School-South School, and a technology technician.

The board also backed asking voters to approve borrowing up to $500,000 for building maintenance work. Business Manager Scott Vaitones said that nearly $300,000 of that money will be for roof work at RDMS-South schools and at the St. George School. He said the first repayment on that loan, estimated at $60,000-$70,000 annually, would be due in the 2013-2014 budget.

Even with the additions made Monday night, about 10 teaching posts, eight educational technicians and several support staff jobs still will be eliminated. The cuts include an industrial arts teacher in the middle schools, a high school art teacher, an eighth grade classroom teacher at St. George and a kindergarten position at the Gilford Butler School in South Thomaston.

No administrative cuts were proposed. The administration said earlier this year that no cuts were proposed for administration because those decisions should be left to the new superintendent who is expected to be hired later in the spring.

Jennifer Garrett of St. George was the sole resident to speak at the public session of the Monday meeting. She said it seemed to be a conflict of interest that the administration did not propose cutting any administrative positions.

Garrett also questioned why the district was spending money for football while reducing teaching positions.

The board will take its final vote on the budget at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, May 3, at the McLain School. The districtwide budget meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 29, at Oceanside High School East auditorium in Rockland. A referendum to approve or reject the budget adopted by the public on May 29 will be voted on Tuesday, June 12, at the polls in each of the six communities.

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