St. George turnout saves RSU 13 budget

Posted Aug. 13, 2013, at 9:48 p.m.

ROCKLAND, Maine — A nearly clean sweep in St. George overcame a dramatically higher turnout in Rockland, which contributed to approval of the Regional School Unit 13 budget Tuesday.

The budget was approved overall in the six communities 737-622.

The Rockland City Council had voted last week to oppose the budget, saying it was going to have a negative financial impact on the community. The St. George Select Board had voted to support the budget.

The original $27 million budget failed June 11 at the polls 320-332.

Last month, attendees of an RSU 13 districtwide meeting — led by St. George residents — added $343,162 to the proposed 2013-14 budget in an effort to restore several teaching positions eliminated in the original budget proposal.

On Tuesday, more than 500 Rockland residents turned out and rejected the revised budget 168-342. The turnout was nearly four times the 139 Rockland residents who turned out to vote in June.

The budget also was opposed in Owls Head 58-100 and 46-49 in South Thomaston.

But in St. George, the vote to approve the budget was 336-45. This was nearly 90 percent of the people who turned out.

Thomaston voters backed the budget 88-57 as did Cushing voters, 41-29.

Superintendent Lewis Collins said Tuesday night that he was thrilled by the high level of participation by voters. He said he would meet with his administrative team on Monday and Tuesday and discuss whether to recommend adding teaching positions that voters had approved money for in the budget.

After the original budget was rejected at the polls, RSU 13 learned it would receive $343,000 more from the state than it initially had projected for 2013-14. There was disagreement within the district on whether that money should be used to reduce property taxes or to retain the teaching positions that would otherwise be cut.

St. George argued for keeping the positions, including art and social studies teachers at Oceanside High School East.

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