Newport-area residents to vote on school budget for second time

Posted Aug. 19, 2013, at 4:04 p.m.
Last modified Aug. 19, 2013, at 5:17 p.m.

NEWPORT, Maine — Newport-area voters will once again head to the polls on Tuesday to approve or deny the 2013-2014 school year budget for Regional School Unit 19.

Superintendent Greg Potter attributed the failure of the first budget attempt in June to poor voter turnout. The budget failed 457-400. Only Corinna and Dixmont passed the budget while majorities in Hartland, Newport, Palmyra, Plymouth and St. Albans opposed the school district’s annual spending plan.

For this attempt, the district has advertised in radio, print and online to encourage voters to head to the polls. The polls in each of the district’s eight towns will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

“It would really help if folks would go out and weigh in on the budget proposal,” Potter said on Monday.

Fewer than 80 people attended the district’s budget meeting Aug. 1, at Nokomis Regional High School in Newport.

The $22.65 million figure that will be presented to voters on Tuesday will be $50,000 less than the proposal that was voted down in June. However, local taxpayers will actually be asked to pay $191,800 less than in the previous attempt.

Because the Legislature overrode Gov. Paul LePage’s state budget veto June 26, there is additional funding to support the schools, Potter explained earlier this month.

“RSU 19′s share [of state education aid] is $141,800 more than we estimated we would receive,” he said.

The budget was also reduced by $50,000, due to changes in workers’ compensation rates, Potter said. There has been a reduction in workplace injuries due to improved safety procedures, he said.

Because the state is now providing the district with $141,800 more than expected, plus the $50,000 in reductions to the budget, local shares paid by towns will decline by nearly $200,000.

“What we’re basically looking at is [providing] about $191,800 in additional savings to the towns [as compared to the first attempt],” Potter previously said. “The state takes a higher share [of expense] and the locals get a lower share.”

Voters approved a $23,324,296 budget for the 2012-2013 school year. The proposed 2013-2014 budget would be a 2.9 percent decrease.

However, without the first of 10 payments of the $2.8 million stabilization loan, plus a shift of $309,000 in teacher retirement funding obligations from the state to RSU 19, the budget would be a 5.9 percent decrease from the previous school year.

“I feel it’s a very responsible budget that supports students,” Potter said. “It is the most efficient spending plan for any school unit in the state. We’re spending a bit less per pupil than anyone else.”

Including adult education, local contributions attached to the 2013-2014 budget are as follows: Corinna — $923,489.65; Dixmont — $590,934.82; Etna — $505,128.91; Hartland — $1,041,463.41; Newport — $2,170,676.12; Palmyra — $985,995.75; Plymouth — $631,498.95; and St. Albans — $1,300,141.19 for a total of $8,149,328.80, a 0.9 percent increase from last year.

The state is anticipated to pay $14,206,174.18, plus the district has $375,000 in revenue that it will put toward the proposed budget.

“We’re hoping the voters will support us,” said Potter. “We feel strongly that we’ve righted the ship, sort to speak, and we’re in position to really move forward.”

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