NEWPORT, Maine — The Regional School Unit 19 board of directors approved the consideration of a $2.9 million loan on Wednesday evening which will be presented to the voters of the eight community towns in January.
A citizen-led group also presented a plan to save subvarsity sports for students at Nokomis Regional High School in Newport.
Last week, voters in Corinna, Dixmont, Etna, Hartland, Newport, Palmyra, Plymouth and St. Albans, towns that comprise RSU 19, shot down a $3.6 million loan that would have allowed the district to make it through the rest of the school year without further cuts. Earlier this year, serious errors causing the $3.6 million shortfall were discovered in the district’s budget.
To help bridge the gap, Superintendent Greg Potter cut $750,000 off the budget last week by eliminating most subvarsity sports, extracurricular activities, supplies and transportation to after-school events.
Potter said the loan will again be broken into two parts — the $1.5 million repayment of the Revenue Anticipation Note, which was taken out to pay off debts from the previous school year, and a $1.4 million loan. Taxpayers in Etna and Dixmont will not be included in the $1.5 million loan repayment, as was the case with the previous loan proposal.
If the loan fails for a second time, Potter said, the board will not be making any more cuts. Instead, the board will ask voters a third time to approve the same $2.9 million loan through referendum.
“Unless the school board orders me to make additional cuts, I absolutely do not plan on doing any more of that this year,” said Potter during the special meeting held at Nokomis Regional High School. “I think that’s the stand we have to take now because at this point, [the cuts] only get much, much deeper.”
The loan would again be a 10-year repayment to the lender. It must first be presented to voters in a public hearing and then be validated by a vote. Potter said he’s confident the loan would be on a referendum vote sometime in January.
Newly elected House Minority Leader Rep. Kenneth Fredette, R-Newport, presented a proposal to the board of directors that would save subvarsity sports for the high school.
Fredette and five others came up with a proposal to donate $30,000 to the school that would keep winter and spring subvarsity sports and pay for both varsity and subvarsity travel expenses.
Fredette said that $15,000 would be raised and deposited into an account overseen by Potter, while an additional $15,000 will be raised for spring sports.
“This is at least one area where we’re willing to step forward and try to help out in a small way,” said Fredette.
He made it clear that the fundraising was a one-time offering, and that the group wouldn’t be fundraising next year.
The proposal was approved unanimously.
Duane Littlefield, who helped organize the fundraising with Fredette, said the Hartland Community Center picked up the basketball “B” teams for Somerset Valley Middle School in Hartland while the community centers in Newport and Corinna accepted the “B” teams from Sebasticook Valley Middle School in Newport. Those middle school “B” teams were part of the $750,000 in cuts made last week.
The board also unanimously accepted a proposal led by Jennifer Watson of Palmyra, who spoke on behalf of the recently formed RSU 19 Parent and Community Group. Watson asked for the board’s blessing to raise money for school supplies and other needs.
“I think we can use all the help we can get,” said Dan Costain, board chairman.
Along with the board, both Potter and Nokomis Principal Mary Nadeau expressed support for both organizations that made proposals on Wednesday evening.