MACHIAS, Maine — In 12 minutes, without a single word of discussion or even one question, a tiny group of Machias residents passed the 2013-2014 proposed $4.47 million AOS 96 budget Tuesday night.
Although three selectmen, the superintendent of schools and the adult education director were on hand to answer any questions by the public, none were asked. Eleven people voted.
AOS 96 serves 11 individual communities: Machias, Machiasport, East Machias, Cutler, Roque Bluffs, Jonesboro, Whitneyville, Marshfield, Northfield, Whiting and Wesley. Each community holds its own budget referendum.
In Machias, the budget represents a $46,000 increase in appropriations over last year due to the cost of replacing the heating system in the high school gymnasium. During budget workshops held with the Machias selectmen earlier this month, Superintendent Scott Porter said the budget was as fiscally responsible as possible.
“There is a fine line between keeping a trim budget and keeping a high-quality education,” he said. Porter said salaries and benefits have been tentatively negotiated with teachers’ union members and “they aren’t even getting their normal step increases.”
Porter estimated that taxes for schools should remain flat at Machiasport, East Machias and Wesley. He said that maintenance, special education and contracted services are key to all the budgets but that the lion’s share of costs are in personnel. “A full 80 percent of our costs are people,” he said.
The total AOS budget is $13 million and individual budgets range from Machias at $4.47 million to Wesley at $200,000. The 11 communities include 8 schools and share the expenses of a curriculum director, special education and the central office.
During Tuesday’s referendum, Toff Toffolon acted as moderator and voters passed all 17 articles with no discussion. A written ballot was required to appropriate additional local funds — beyond that amount allowed by state law — and the vote was 10 yes, one no, to raise $324,754.
More information on AOS 96 can be found at www.aos96.org.