Residents in Regional School Unit 18’s five towns go to the polls Tuesday to vote on the proposed 2016-17 school year budget.

Administrators have put together a budget of $34.6 million, up by about $223,000 from the previous year’s budget. Last year an initial budget of $34.7 million was rejected by voters, who eventually accepted a budget of $34.4 million.

Still, superintendent Gary Smith said he’s optimistic about this year’s vote.

RSU 18 includes the towns of Belgrade, China, Oakland, Rome and Sidney. Polls in China open at 7:30 a.m. and in Rome at noon. All others open at 8 a.m. Each poll closes at 8 p.m.

Each year the district’s administrators review how the voting process went. This year, the district has tried to educate board members about the budget more so they can educate their communities, and administrators have been upfront at meetings, Smith said.

“We’ve incorporated into our message this year a lot of the good things that are happening,” Smith said, referring to improvements such as the district’s increased graduation rates and its literacy program.

The budget, according to Smith, is “fiscally responsible.” He said the decision to increase spending by $223,000 “doesn’t happen without making a lot of hard choices.”

The increase will go toward things people have been asking for, Smith said, such as school supplies and books.

Taxpayers in the five district towns would have to pay nearly $679,000 in additional money if the increase of less than 1 percent is voted through.

This, in part, is because of a decrease in property tax valuations, which fell by $1.4 billion statewide and drive state funding. And while the state is expected to fund education by 55 percent, this requirement often gets lowered throughout the legislative budget process, Smith said.

Lawmakers did send a bill to Gov. Paul LePage in March that would give an additional $15 million in school funding, although advocates were asking for $20 million.

If the school budget fails to pass the first time, like it did last year, the board will discuss future steps. The previous year they cut money for things such as facility work, in an effort to not adversely impact students, Smith said.

Madeline St. Amour – 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter:@madeline_violet


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