ROCKLAND, Maine — “Rockland gets clobbered,” one school board member remarked Monday night during a presentation of next year’s proposed budget for Regional School Unit 13.
While the total local share of the proposed budget for the six towns in the district is only up half a percent or about $108,000, Rockland’s share of the bill is going up more than 5 percent or about $365,500.
The funding formula for assessing local shares is based on student population and town valuations. Because of larger numbers in both categories, Rockland, South Thomaston and Thomaston will pay more than they did last year. The RSU 13 member towns of St. George, Owls Head and Cushing will pay less than they did last year, despite the slight overall budget hike.
Rockland school board member Esther Kilgour asked what might happen if the budget was reduced.
“That $108,000 [local increase], if we take it out, it won’t all come off Rockland,” superintendent Judith Lucarelli said at the meeting.
“For the next three years the burden will keep coming onto Rockland,” Kilgour replied.
In addition to being affected by the formula that assigns higher school taxes to towns with higher property values and more students, Rockland also is facing an increased tax burden because of the recent school district consolidation.
When the Rockland and Thomaston school districts consolidated into one RSU, Thomaston was paying a lot more for its children’s education. As part of the merger, Rockland must now pay more. The RSU decided to phase in the increased tax burden for the former SAD 5 towns of Rockland, South Thomaston and Owls Head. For the next three years, Rockland will continue to take on more of the school taxes, Kilgour said.
In total, the six-town district will pay $26,038,139 for its 10 schools in the proposed budget. This is up about 2.5 percent from last year. Of this, the local taxpayers overall will experience a half a percent increase. Some federal and state funds and a small surplus from the current year’s budget will offset the remainder.
The school board will vote on the proposed budget at its May 5 meeting.