The school district covering Monmouth, Richmond, Farmingdale, Hallowell and Dresden is proposing a budget for the next school year that would increase taxes by 4 percent, citing needs for salary bumps, capital improvements and health care spending for special education students.

The $25.9 million budget proposed by Regional School Unit 2’s board is up approximately 2 percent, or $500,000, over the current year, said Dawn Gallagher of Hallowell, the school board’s chairwoman.

It’s more conservative than last year’s budget, which demanded an average local tax increase of nearly 8 percent after another increase the year before, but the district says it would increase property taxes by roughly 4 percent in each municipality because of a change in the state’s share of funding after the increase.

But after past increases, local officials say there’s little appetite for another hike now. Hallowell Mayor Mark Walker said he expects some city council opposition to any city budget raising the share of education spending, saying “we’ve had pretty large increases in the city in years past and it’s time to put that to a more level amount.”

“They want to see the impact to Hallowell be flat,” Walker said.

But Gallagher called last year’s increase “higher than we’d ever want.”

Jonathan Hamann, an RSU 2 board member from Monmouth who is co-chairman of the district’s budget committee, said this year’s budget — which must be funded in local budgets and could be finally approved by the board in May before going to voters in June — was designed to be different.

Hamann said the increase is largely driven by three factors: $550,000 more in required step raises for employees, $200,000 more for medical treatment outlined in individualized education programs for certain special education students under Medicaid, the federal health care program for the poor, and $115,000 more for capital improvements.

It assumes flat state funding for education, and Hamann said increases would be partially offset by $450,000 in money held by the Maine Public Employees Retirement System that will be returned to the district and $100,000 in energy savings after the district switched many buildings to natural gas. The budget also would move five teachers from part-time to full-time status and add $50,000 in spending on sports and co-curricular activities.

“Obviously, no one’s swimming in money right now, so we’re trying to keep our increase as conservative as possible while not having to cut positions,” Hamann said.

But that’s little relief to Timothy McDonald, the vice chairman of Monmouth’s select board, who said while the town has been tight financially in recent years, school budgets have put increased pressure on taxpayers. He said over the last six years, taxes have gone up $800 on his home, making another education hike hard to swallow.

“Everybody on our board will be concerned with it,” McDonald said.

Michael Shepherd — 370-7652

[email protected]

Twitter: @mikeshepherdme


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