St. George seeks to add $343,000 back into Rockland area school budget

By Stephen Betts, BDN Staff
Posted July 23, 2013, at 1:24 p.m.

ROCKLAND, Maine — St. George will attempt to add $343,000 to the proposed Regional School Unit 13 budget when the public gathers for the districtwide budget meeting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Oceanside High School East.

The proposal, however, is being met with concern by Rockland officials because that community would pay the lion’s share of the increase.

The original proposed budget of $27 million was rejected at the polls on June 11 by a 332-320 tally.

Following that defeat, the RSU 13 board voted to cut an additional $110,000 from the spending package in hopes of gaining voter approval for the revote. The revised $26,883,000 budget represents about a 1 percent increase from 2012-2013.

The budget cuts several teaching positions including arts and social studies positions at Oceanside East.

After the defeat, the district also was informed by the state that it would receive an additional $343,000 in state money. The district administration has recommended that this money be used to reduce the property tax burden and not to add items back into the budget.

But officials in St. George are working hard to turn out their residents to support a motion that Select Board Chairman Bill Reinhardt plans to make Wednesday evening to increase education spending by the $343,000.

“The Select Board views this increase in state aid to education as a significant opportunity to restore the teaching positions eliminated in the proposed RSU 13 budget at no additional costs to taxpayers,” states a resolve approved July 15 by the St. George board.

The town officials want teaching positions at the high school restored as well as the restoration of the expeditionary learning program at the St. George School and for money to be spent to address math deficiencies.

RSU 13 consists of Rockland, Thomaston, St. George, Owls Head, South Thomaston and Cushing.

Rockland would pick up the bulk of any increased spending. Rockland City Councilor Larry Pritchett voiced concern about the effort.

“Questions about education funding are tough. We all want (and expect) the local school system to provide a relevant, quality education to the kids in this area. We can differ about what the spending priorities for RSU 13 should be,” Pritchett said. “But, inaccurate, or false, information does nothing to encourage a meaningful public debate. The suggestion by St. George that these positions can be added without any cost to any RSU 13 towns is not accurate. If these positions are added back, taxpayers in Rockland will see roughly a $250,000 increase in their property tax bills,” Pritchett said.

The councilor said as an elected official from Rockland he finds it hard to expect residents to pay any more money.

Whatever budget is approved on Wednesday night will go to residents for a “yes” or “no” vote at the polls in the individual communities on Tuesday, Aug. 13.

http://bangordailynews.com/2013/07/23/news/midcoast/rockland-area-school-budget-meeting-set-for-wednesday/ printed on September 21, 2014