Residents in Newport-based school district will be presented lower budget, but taxpayers will still pay more

Greg Potter
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Posted May 24, 2013, at 4:27 p.m.

NEWPORT, Maine — RSU 19’s board of directors have approved a budget for the 2013-14 school year that will be slightly less than the current year’s budget, said Superintendent Gregory Potter.

Residents of Corinna, Dixmont, Etna, Hartland, Newport, Palmyra, Plymouth and St. Albans will be able to vote to place the $22,700,503 budget on a referendum ballot for June 18. The public meeting will be held on Wednesday, May 29 in the Nokomis Regional High School gym in Newport at 6:30 p.m. The current school year’s operating cost is $23,324,296.

“We’ve done a lot of work to try to make [the budget] as responsible as we can,” Potter said on Thursday.

The budget includes the first repayment of the 10-year $2.8 million loan to help make up for a $3.6 million shortfall in the current school year’s budget. The 2013-14 repayment will be $398,000.

Also, $309,000 had to be added to the budget because of a 2.65 percent shift of the Maine State Retirement contribution to the district instead of the state.

Without those two costs, the budget would have been 5.7 percent less than the current year’s budget.

However, to get the budget down, Potter said he had to make some tough decisions.

Eleven full-time equivalent teaching positions eliminated during a round of cuts last year will remain cut, he said. Another 7.5 full-time equivalent teaching positions will be eliminated involving three layoffs because some positions won’t be refilled due to retirements. The contracts of three probationary teachers will not be renewed.

Additionally, St. Albans Consolidated School Principal Randy Gould, who is retiring, will not be replaced, said Potter. A school bus driver and a district wide maintenance worker were also cut.

“I think [the budget is] very lean,” said Potter.

Of the $22.7 million budget, just more than $14 million will be paid through state subsidies and an additional $375,000 will be paid through miscellaneous revenue. The eight towns in the district will be responsible for $8,261,128. They will also pay $80,000 for adult education.

Collectively, taxpayers will pay $184,735 more than last year’s responsibility of $8,076,394. The increase is due to previous local contributions being “grossly” artificially low the previous two years due to fund balance anticipation that ended up not actually being there, said Potter.

Newport taxpayers will pay the most at $2,193,135. It’s followed by St. Albans $1,313,535, Hartland $1,052,262, Palmyra $996,194, Corinna $933,060, Plymouth $638,039, Dixmont $611,660 and Etna $523,240.

Four cuts made during the budget crisis for the current school will be reinstated for next year, including a school resource officer, freshman and JV winter and spring sports at the high school, B-team winter and spring sports at Sebasticook Valley and Somerset Valley middle schools and at Etna-Dixmont School, and music accompanists at the high school and Sebasticook Valley Middle School will be restored through stipends.

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