RSU 19 implements $750,000 in cuts after $3.6 million loan voted down

Posted Nov. 07, 2012, at 11:58 a.m.
Last modified Nov. 07, 2012, at 6:15 p.m.

NEWPORT, Maine — Regional School Unit 19 Superintendent Greg Potter said Wednesday that the district’s $3.6 million loan proposal did not pass, forcing the district to cut $750,000 in programs.

Seven of the eight towns in the district voted down the $3.6 million loan proposal on Tuesday, 3,853 to 3,500.

Last month, the RSU 19 board of directors approved a list of cuts totaling $750,000 that would be made if the loan didn’t pass. Potter said last week that he would implement those cuts the day after the election.

Programs included in Wednesday’s cuts are elements of the music program, junior varsity and freshman baseball, JV cheering, all middle school “B” spring sports, all field trips, all after-school activities at Nokomis Regional High School in Newport, boys and girls JV and freshman basketball, JV softball, all boys and girls “B” basketball, transportation to sports, music, and other events, and tens of thousands of dollars in supplies and equipment.

Five-and-a-half full-time equivalent support staff positions also will be eliminated, along with coaching positions of sports teams that are cut.

In Tuesday’s vote, Corinna was the only town to approve the loan, with 546 residents in favor and 478 against.

Dixmont, Etna, Hartland, Newport, Palmyra, Plymouth and St. Albans all voted down the loan. The votes were: Dixmont 347 no, 322 yes; Etna 317 no, 255 yes; Hartland 486 no, 346 yes; Newport 795 no, 785 yes; Palmyra 538 no, 493 yes; Plymouth 322 no, 305 yes; St. Albans 570 no, 448 yes.

Etna had 12 votes voided. Four other towns reported voided votes: Palmyra (10), St. Albans (10), Dixmont (6) and Hartland (5).

Potter said the result was disappointing but not unexpected.

“It looks like we have more work to do. I’m not really surprised,” he said Wednesday morning. “It was a close vote, so that’s encouraging. We’ll keep working.”

Lois Kilby-Chesley, president of the Maine Education Association, the state teachers union, expressed disappointment that the loan did not pass.

“Fixing this financial mess now falls on the backs of students and educators and it will be the students who are negatively impacted by the rejection of this loan,” said Kilby-Chesley in a statement.

Potter said the decision of the voters Tuesday means that difficult steps now have to be taken.

“It’s obviously very frustrating because it means we have to implement further cuts,” he said. “We will implement [about] $1.6 million in cuts this year, and it doesn’t get us anywhere where we need to be.”

The $750,000 in cuts brings total reductions to $1,580,000 for this school year’s budget, as $830,000 was taken out earlier this year.

Another loan proposal will likely be brought before the RSU 19 board of directors during the Nov. 20 meeting, said Potter. He added that it would be less than the $3.6 million the district asked for on Tuesday.

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