June 19, 2018
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Newport-area residents place $22.7 million school budget on ballot

By Alex Barber, BDN Staff

NEWPORT, Maine — After three tries to get voter approval of a $2.8 million loan to help bridge the gap in a $3.6 million shortfall this school year, RSU 19 voters easily passed a figure for the 2013-2014 budget that will be placed on next month’s referendum ballot.

All 17 articles were passed overwhelmingly during Tuesday night’s district budget meeting at Nokomis Regional High School. About 75 people participated in the town meeting format session.

Residents of Corinna, Dixmont, Etna, Hartland, Newport, Palmyra, Plymouth and St. Albans will vote on the $22,700,503 budget on June 18.

“Everything passed with solid support. It looks like over 90 percent of people assembled were supportive of the articles,” Superintendent Greg Potter said after the meeting.

The figure that will be presented to voters is less than the current school year’s budget of $23,324,296. However, locals will actually be paying $184,735 more than last year’s responsibility of $8,076,394. The eight towns in the district will be responsible for $8,261,128 in next year’s budget. They will also pay $80,000 for adult education. Just more than $14 million of the budget will be paid through state subsidies and an additional $375,000 will be paid through miscellaneous revenue.

The budget includes the first repayment of the 10-year $2.8 million loan to help make up for a $3.6 million shortfall in the current school year’s budget. The 2013-14 repayment will be $398,000.

Also, $309,000 had to be added to the budget because of a 2.65 percent shift of the Maine State Retirement contribution to the district instead of the state.

“What we’re hoping is we’ve done enough work to mitigate the impact to the locals,” Potter said.

To help bring the final budget figure down, cuts had to be made, he said.

Eleven full-time equivalent teaching positions eliminated during a round of cuts last year will remain cut, he said. Another 7.5 full-time equivalent teaching positions will be eliminated involving three layoffs because some positions won’t be refilled due to retirements. The contracts of three probationary teachers will not be renewed.

Additionally, St. Albans Consolidated School Principal Randy Gould, who is retiring, will not be replaced, said Potter. A school bus driver and a districtwide maintenance worker were also cut.

Newport taxpayers will pay the most at $2,193,135. It’s followed by St. Albans $1,313,535, Hartland $1,052,262, Palmyra $996,194, Corinna $933,060, Plymouth $638,039, Dixmont $611,660 and Etna $523,240.

Although Tuesday night’s voting was well in favor of the budget numbers, Potter said it doesn’t necessarily indicate the vote will surely pass.

The $2.8 million loan took three tries to pass this school year. Last year’s budget narrowly passed 776-610.

“Our whole goal was to have a reasonable number that folks could support. I fully expect the vote to be much closer at the polls,” said Potter. “That’s been the history, but the indicators for tonight seemed to be pretty strong and hopefully it’s enough to carry that.”

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