Once again, Regional School Unit 38 taxpayers face a budget increase. Two years ago, Readfield residents faced a larger budget increase than any of the surrounding towns and decisively voted down that budget, even though overall it passed by 32 votes.

This year, there has been an excellent example to watch taking place in the five towns in neighboring RSU 18. They rejected the expanded budget this year and also three years ago. In Belgrade and Sidney, public officials even spoke out against it and its potential negative economic impact, even though the Belgrade mil rate is only 13.35, far less than Readfield’s 18.5.

The argument could be made that Belgrade’s far greater commercial tax base could help support the lower mil rate ,which is true. In Readfield, however, we have watched numerous businesses close their doors or move major parts of their operations out of town because it is too expensive here to operate. People who don’t think one of the highest property and personal property tax rates around is a big part of that are mistaken.

Decades ago, Readfield was a vibrant community with mills, factories, car dealerships and farms. Most of them are gone, never to return. The RSU budget is 72 percent of our overall tax bill, with 50 percent of it for teachers salaries alone. As a result, our town government struggles to provide necessary services and is forced to borrow money for important things such as road rebuilding.

I’ve heard all the arguments and excuses for our district’s budget increases, but every year for the last four, other school districts locally and around the state responsibly handle the difficult job of keeping their budgets down.

Residents can start turning things around by voting against this budget on Tuesday. We can send a message. Every vote counts.

David Hepfner


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