On Tuesday, the Regional School Unit 18 budget of $32,281,753 will be settled at the polls in the district’s five towns — Belgrade, China, Oakland, Rome and Sidney.

The budget total is about 1 percent greater than last year’s budget of $31,972,592, which itself was a flat budget compared to the previous year.

If approved, the budget will result in significant increases in the local assessment for each of the five towns, which Superintendent Gary Smith, who drafted the budget, said has not happened since the district was formed in 2009.

While the school budget is increasing by about $309,000, the effect on local taxpayers is significantly more, because the state is contributing less than it did last year, Smith said.

In all, he said, state funding levels to the district are expected to drop by $4.1 million. In addition, Gov. Paul LePage has proposed shifting teacher retirement costs onto local districts, which would add about $425,000 in costs to the district.

Under the budget, which was passed by the district’s board of directors and at a district budget meeting on May 9, local taxpayers would be asked to pay $1,280,000 more than they did last year.

In Belgrade, the local assessment would increase by $330,098, to a total of $5,030,633.

In China, the increase would be $256,655, to $3,254,949.

In Oakland, the increase would be $363,246, to $4,077,708.

In Rome, the increase would be $135,525, to $1,310,801.

In Sidney, the increase would be $196,167, to $2,988,535.

In all, the amount raised locally would be $16,662,625 of a total amount of $29,686,389 spent by the district in accordance with state-required essential programs and services.

While residents are voting on the budget, the effect on local taxpayers could change, depending on changes in revenue estimates, which Smith said are based on preliminary figures provided by the state.

Smith said the final outcome of the state’s budget process, which is likely to be completed in June, will determine the actual amount assessed.

Last year, voters rejected proposed budget increases twice, forcing the board to approve a flat budget, which passed in September.

At the time, Smith said the long, drawn-out process was a significant distraction from the school’s mission of educating children. The district’s budget cycle runs from July 1 to June 30 of the following year.

This year, Smith said the entire amount of the budget increase could be attributed to LePage’s proposal to shift costs onto the district.

“If these costs were not in the budget, this year’s proposed budget would be down $117,667,” he said.

One group of parents said a completely separate issue could affect the vote.

The district’s ongoing switch to Mass Customized Learning, a teaching system that does away with many traditional classroom elements, has driven many parents to vote against the budget, according to Tamara Wener, a parent in the district who has been active in opposing the change.

“A lot of people are voting the budget down because they’re not being heard on this issue about MCL,” she said. She herself, she said, wouldn’t oppose the budget on those grounds, because she feels a loss of revenue will hurt the district’s students.

“It’s our children that are ultimately being affected,” she said.

The polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. in Belgrade’s Center for All Seasons, the China Town Office, Oakland’s Williams Elementary School, the Rome Town Office and the Sidney Town Office.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling — 861-9287
[email protected]

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