Two months after rejecting a budget for Oakland-based Regional School Unit 18, voters in the district’s five towns will consider a smaller proposed budget Tuesday.

The new budget is $430,171 less than the $33 million that was rejected June 12 by voters in Belgrade, China, Oakland, Rome and Sidney.

That budget failed by 38 votes, 1,209–1,171.

The $32,599,068 budget represents a 2 percent increase over last year’s budget of $31,974,420. The budget defeated in June was 3.3 percent higher than last year’s.

Rising property values in the area have resulted in decreased state aid, as state funding formulas assume that towns with higher property values are better able to pay for their schools.

Between 2010 and 2011, valuations statewide have declined by an average of 2 percent, while values in the five towns have increased by an average of 2.2 percent, or about $48,000,000.

Oakland’s 4.4 percent increase has been the steepest, while Sidney’s property values have remained flat.

Because the valuations have gone up by differing amounts, the cost of the new budget would not be spread evenly among the five towns. A total increase of $671,694 would be assessed locally.

The biggest increases would come in Oakland, where the town’s total tax bill would increase by $283,661, or $57 for a taxpayer with a home valued at $100,000.

Next would be China, where the town will pay $159,116 more, or $39 for a taxpayer with a home valued at $100,000.

In Belgrade, the town’s tax bill would increase by $220,779, or $35 for a taxpayer with a home valued at $100,000.

In Sidney, the tax bill would increase by $84,037, or $22 for a taxpayer with a home valued at $100,000.

Rome will pay $75,919 less, with an estimated benefit of $23 for a taxpayer with a home valued at $100,000.

The town governments in Sidney and Belgrade have publicly opposed the revised budget, saying that it does not go far enough to reduce costs to local taxpayers.

Rising local property valuations aren’t new this year. Over the past five years, property values in the five towns have increased by 24.3 percent, which has caused state funding to decline.

Federal stimulus funding has also dried up, leaving a $603,667 hole in this year’s district budget. While state and federal revenue goes down, the school’s proposed budget has increased.

The overall budget picture is not likely to get better next year.

The current budget received a one-time boost from a $1.45 million fund balance that was spent to prevent further cuts or tax increases. Next year, that money will not be available.

In addition, some of the reductions to the original budget deferred, rather than eliminated, certain expenses, such as building maintenance projects.

According to a presentation from Superintendent Gary Smith, increased costs were attributable to several things, including the loss of federal money, which was  responsible for 35 percent of the increase.

Salary increases will cost another $301,077, while school choice vouchers will cost another $293,288.

Other significant cost increases cited were $158,444 in benefits, $147,292 in debt service and $118,952 for an energy project lease.

The individual components of the budget were discussed and approved by voters at a public meeting on July 26. Tuesday’s referendum will ask voters to approve or reject the total amount.

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