April 23, 2018
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Bath-area residents to vote on shortening school budget approval process

By Larry Grard, Times Record

BATH, Maine — Residents of the five Regional School Unit 1 towns will have the option of eliminating half of the two-step budget-approval process when they vote June 4.

Tim Harkins, chairman of the RSU 1 Board of Directors, made that known during Monday night’s meeting at Morse High School.

As it stands, voters gather for district meetings, during which they finalize budgets approved by their school boards. They vote a second time on that figure during the referendum vote in each town.

In RSU 1’s case, the district meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. on May 28 at Bath Middle School. The referendum vote is June 4.

“The second question on the June 4 ballot will be whether to continue the two-part validation process,” Harkins said. “Do voters want to continue with the second piece?”

RSU 1 will send a budget increase of 6.6 percent to the voters of its five municipalities.

The school board has approved a $27.7 million budget for 2013-14. The 6.6 percent increase includes money for a health curriculum instructor who would serve full-time at Bath Middle School and part-time at Woolwich Central School. It’s a position that many in the district are calling for, in light of drug and alcohol abuse and the ongoing threat of youth suicide.

Residents of West Bath and Woolwich would absorb substantial increases in education costs. Bath residents also would pay more, while Phippsburg would get a considerable break and Arrowsic would get a smaller break.

Also on Monday night, Director William Perkins of Phippsburg reported that RSU 1 is seeking approval for a bond package for facilities improvements in September.

Residents would vote on the bond in November, he said.

Perkins is chairman of the Facilities Committee, which has been studying the needs of RSU 1 schools for months.

Morse and Fisher-Mitchell schools are in the biggest need of repairs. Perkins did not estimate the price of the bond, although a range between $10 million and $20 million has been mentioned at a previous meeting.

“Our flagship here is in need of some work,” Perkins said, referring to Morse.

Perkins said that the Facilities Committee will begin joint meetings with the Finance Committee in June.

“I think we’re pretty unanimous in the feeling that we’re doing to have to put a bond out,” he said.

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