CHELSEA — Turning aside several attempts to reduce the budget, residents at the Regional School Unit 12 budget meeting Tuesday night approved the proposed $20.27 million budget.

The budget for the Somerville-based school district is about 3 percent higher than the budget approved last year, but some of the towns will see their shares increase more dramatically because a cost-sharing formula approved in 2012 is still being phased in.

Residents still have to vote to approve the budget total in a June 9 referendum.

Attempts to reduce the budget, led by several selectmen from the district’s towns, failed at the meeting held at Chelsea Elementary School.

Rick Danforth, a Chelsea selectman, told members of the school board he was going to try to reduce the budget by $585,000 to keep it flat-funded compared to last year.

He made a motion to reduce the first article, but another voter moved to return it to the requested amount. Residents at the meeting voted 40-25 to return the article to the fully requested amount, and after another half-hour of discussion, voters passed the article as written.


Attempts to reduce other budget articles failed by similar margins.

Ben Smith, the chairman of Chelsea’s Selectboard, said he agreed with those who said funding needs to increase appropriately for instruction, but he thinks the district needs to look at administration and facilities maintenance for cost savings. He pointed out that if the district didn’t include the $450,000 in revenue from a payment from Wiscasset for withdrawing and an energy credit for efficiency improvements, the budget would be increasing closer to 7 percent.

“Next year we’re not going to have that revenue,” Smith said.

Later, Danforth attempted to reduce one of the final budget items, the amount the district will raise in local money in excess of the state’s Essential Programs and Services model, by the $585,000 the proposed budget exceeds last year’s budget. He asked residents at the meeting to consider his motion strongly because it was the last chance to reduce the budget.

“Why don’t we let this wonderful board have a shot at trying to do it?” Danforth said. “We’re asked to work within our confines. What I’m suggesting is work within the confines of what you had last year, like everybody else.”

One Chelsea resident asked what the effect would be if the towns approved a $585,000 reduction in the budget.


“The question we would be asking ourselves is who gets the pink slips,” said school board member Gerard Nault. “Because that’s the only place you can go with the amount of budget you’re talking about with flat funding.”

A new state law shifting the cost of students at charter schools from the local level to the state reduced the amount the district had budgeted by around $35,000, Superintendent Howard Tuttle said in his introduction to the budget.

The largest proposed overall cost increases are in total tuition and staff salaries and health insurance, which are a combined $539,000 higher compared to last year.

Even though the state subsidy the district expects to receive increased by $379,000, the district is projecting it will receive less than expected because the percentage of local contribution required by the state is also expected to rise.

As laid out in the originally proposed budget, if approved, Somerville would see its contribution increase by 11.5 percent, Windsor’s share would increase by 11.1 percent and Palermo’s share would increase by 8.4 percent. Whitefield and Chelsea would both see their shares increase by around 3 percent, Alna’s share would drop by less than 1 percent and Westport Island’s share would drop by around 14 percent.

Paul Koenig — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @pdkoenig

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