FARMINGTON — Regional School Unit 9 voters will weigh in once again on the district’s budget after approving a $32.04 million funding package for the upcoming year.

Voters from RSU 9’s 10 towns approved the proposed budget Tuesday night at a districtwide budget meeting after the board had cut more than $200,000 from a funding proposal residents rejected in June. A referendum is scheduled for Tuesday in the 10 towns to finalize the budget.

The more than 200 district voters at the meeting approved the 15 warrant articles, which make up the total budget, in nearly 40 minutes.

“The board is very aware that many residents have tight family budgets, and increases to real estate taxes can be difficult to absorb,” board Chairwoman Jennifer Zweig Hebert wrote in a letter to voters. “This budget supports the programs and items necessary to meet the needs of our student population.

“Our goal is to provide them with an education that will send them into our communities prepared to become productive and contributing citizens,” she added. “It is an investment that will pay us back.”

The board developed a $32,043,907 budget after district voters rejected a $32.25 million funding package in June. The new proposed budget total is 3.2 percent greater than the prior year’s $31.04 million budget.

In addition to the more than $200,000 cut, money from the state general purpose aid to education will create $301,405 in extra savings and reduce the district’s tax rate from $8.48 per $1,000 of property valuation to $8.23, according to Superintendent Thomas Ward.

Since the last budget vote, Ward said, the board had the opportunity to make responsible reductions to programs that don’t affect students directly.

“I’m very pleased with the board’s efforts and trying to compromise,” Ward said.

Residents had only a few questions for administrators about the budget. One man asked when the district would be able to discontinue parts of its debt service and noted it accounts for nearly 20 percent of the district’s budget. The budget for debt service is $6.03 million.

Ward said the middle school renovation debt will end in fiscal year 2022, the Mallett School’s in fiscal year 2031 and the Mt. Blue campus renovation in fiscal year 2032. He said while the debt service appears high, the district has a minimal maintenance budget.

“We’re fortunate that we live in a district in which we value the importance of maintaining our facilities and replacing our facilities when we can,” Ward said, adding that similar districts throughout Maine haven’t invested in their buildings and have significantly higher maintenance costs.

If the budget passes next week, the increases in the 10 towns will be $72,437 for Chesterville, $316,305 for Farmington, $61,775 for Industry, $73,896 for New Sharon, $63,004 for New Vineyard, $29,163 for Starks, $30,903 for Temple, $60,833 for Vienna, $189,350 for Wilton and $43,217 for Weld.


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