WALES — Discussion at the Regional School Unit 4 school board meeting on Wednesday revealed deep disagreements about whether and how the district budget should be cut.

Nearly 200 people turned out at Oak Hill High School to discuss RSU 4’s next attempt at getting a budget passed, after two budgets failed at referendum. A $17.69 million budget proposal for the 2013-14 failed at referendum July 16. The budget was rejected the first time June 11.

Joan Thomas, a school board member from Litchfield, said the towns need to support the schools, because they’re preparing the next generation of leaders. She said education expenses have risen because things like computers are needed now and asked voters not to be stingy.

“You come to the schools, and you think you can just chop, slice and dissect,” Thomas said. “You can do that, but what are you going to be left with? What are your kids going to have?”

Sabattus board member Amadeo Lauria, on the other hand, came with a long list of things he said the board should consider cutting, such as adult education, the assistant superintendent position, any staff stipends not directly related to instruction and iPads for grades K-3.

Some board members and several audience members said RSU 4 should not buy the iPads, at least not at this point.

“If I want my daughter to have that technology and that privilege, that’s something I need to pay for,” said Heidi McKay, the mother of three students. “You need to teach our children how to be productive adults; they don’t need technology to do that.”

Nancy Provost, a mother of four from Litchfield, said the laptops that students have had for the last several years are mostly used for games and Facebook.

“The teachers aren’t using that technology as a tool set to teach the students the way they need to,” Provost said. “Once you’ve shown that is working, then come back and add iPads. But until you do that, I can’t support it.”

School board members including Chairman Robert Gayton Jr., of Sabattus, and Vice Chairman Robert English, of Wales, said iPads can be a powerful educational tool and that students need a technology-rich education to compete in the global economy.

Superintendent Jim Hodgkin said the administrative team was recommending reducing the purchase of iPads by 75 percent to save $60,000.

The administrative team also recommended doubling the high school activity fee to $50 and adding a $25 middle school activity fee, to bring in an estimated $15,000, and to eliminate the position of operations manager, a savings of $61,000.

Jim Wilkens oversees facilities maintenance, transportation and food service. Litchfield school board member Scott Weeks said several constituents have told him they don’t think the district needs that position.

Gayton said Wilkens has saved the district more than his position costs, and his job will become even more vital because of money-saving building upgrades that are going in this year.

Several people in the audience also spoke up for the value of having someone in Wilkens’ position.

Discussion continued into the night without anyone on the school board making a motion to adjust the budget.

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