OAKLAND — In a series of votes Wednesday night, the RSU 18 board adopted a $34.3 million budget that reflects a 1.9 percent increase over the current year.

The board approved $292,671 in cuts, including funding for charter schools, a reduction in health insurance spending, transportation to China schools, the loss of a teacher at Messalonskee Middle School and the reduction of an English Language Arts position to half time. But the board avoided cuts to other teaching positions and protected sports and music programs.

The original $34.7 million budget proposed by the board was rejected by voters in a districtwide referendum on May 19. RSU 18 covers the towns of Oakland, Belgrade, China, Sidney and Rome.

But on Wednesday, board members stated that they had received a flurry of emails from constituents signaling their opposition to cutting the school budget.

Most of the cuts made by the board were from what were determined “tier one” budget lines, or items that would not impact the quality of education. In a 5 to 3 vote, the board approved cutting $261,711 from the budget, including $115,000 in funding to charter schools and a reduction of a pay raise for administrators.

But in another 5 to 3 vote, the board restored the full 3 percent pay raise for administrators, amounting to $19,000. Board member Tom Burton, of Oakland, said that it was “insulting” to limit administrators’ raises, considering how important their positions were to students.


In exchange, the board cut an English Language Arts position at Messalonskee High School to half time, a $24,000 cut.

In another motion, Andy Cook, a board member from Rome, made a proposal to eliminate a teaching position at Messalonskee Middle School, another cut of approximately $26,000.

But the board was hesitant to make any further cuts, noting the wave of support that they had received from parents and members of the public.

Burton cautioned the board against cutting too deep into programs, noting that they could face the possibility that the budget would fail at the polls because of those who were opposed to cutting the budget at all.

The outpouring of support led board member Mary-Anne LaMarre to initially make the motion not to cut the budget at all.

“We voted on it because we believed in it. I think there is enough support in this community that if we brought it forward, it would pass,” LaMarre said.


But other board members were more cautious, and LaMarre’s motion failed 5 to 3.

Vice Chairman Ellwood Ellis, of China, said the current situation brought back memories of the budget two years ago, when it took three rounds of voting to get the budget passed, and he questioned if the support shown in emails would translate into voting power at the ballot box.

Board Chairwoman Laura Tracy, of Oakland, agreed.

“I want to be responsive to the needs of taxpayers and the school,” Tracy said. “I think we have to be very, very careful this time to make sure it passes, and it doesn’t have to go back a third or fourth time.”

The board will hold a public hearing on the budget at 6 p.m. Monday, June 8, at Messalonskee Middle School. A districtwide budget meeting will be held June 18, and the budget referendum will be held June 30.

Peter McGuire — 861-9239


Twitter: PeteL_McGuire

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