Voters of East Millinocket to set town, school budgets tonight

Posted June 25, 2013, at 3:34 p.m.

EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine — Residents will vote tonight on the proposed town and school budgets as part of the annual town meeting, Administrative Assistant Shirley Tapley said.

Scheduled originally to occur at the town office auditorium, the meeting will assemble there at 6 p.m. before moving to Schenck High School and reconvening shortly thereafter. School Superintendent Quenten Clark said Tuesday that he expects a larger crowd this year than in previous years.

“There may be some discussion allowed on some of the things that may affect the budget this year,” Tapley said Tuesday.

The proposed replacement of Schenck’s roof will likely not be among the items to draw a lot of attention, Tapley said. That issue will be decided in a public hearing on July 8 and a referendum on July 18, Clark said.

The proposed $2.7 million municipal budget would cut property taxes by $27,429, but as with the school budget, town officials fear that sharp cuts in revenues drawn from state government will drive the town’s 23.3 mill rate sharply upward.

Due to several fixed cost increases, the school board’s proposed $4.4 million budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 increased about $237,787 compared to this year’s.

Those costs include a 13 percent increase in the East Millinocket School Department’s health insurance and about $109,000 in increased special education fees. The cuts included the elimination of a technology teacher’s position at Schenck High School, Clark has said.

The backdrop to both budgets and the proposed $1.87 million renovation of Schenck is a decline in town population, school children and state revenues mixed with rising costs, gloomy population projections and a special deal with Cate Street Capital LLC that leaves the property taxes owed by the Main Street paper mill set at $700,000 for several more years.

According to budget documents provided by the school, since the 2011-12 fiscal year, school spending has increased from $3.2 million to the proposed $4.4 million. The budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year, which lapses June 30, is $4.17 million.

However, Opal Myrick Elementary and Schenck High schools merged, and the Opal Myrick building closed in September 2011 as a cost-cutting measure. In 2009-10, town schools had a $3.76 million budget, and the following year, a $3.64 million budget, the documents show.

The town’s population has dropped from 2,557 in the 1970 census to 1,723 in 2010. East Millinocket’s projected student population in September is 209 students, the lowest in town history.

Population predictions compiled by state officials and available at maine.gov show East Millinocket’s population falling to 1,617 in two years, to 1,525 in 2020 and to 1,430 by 2025. Millinocket is expected to lose 500 people and drop to 4,002 in 2015 and to 3,531 by 2020.

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