A new $18.8 million budget proposal is heading to Regional School Unit 4 voters after the first budget was rejected by just 18 votes during the state primary election last week.

After voters rejected the $18.9 million budget on June 14, the board removed $100,000 from the proposal. The new proposal is up 1.3 percent from the current year’s, whereas the one that was rejected last week was up 1.8 percent. The district serves Litchfield, Sabattus and Wales.

The board’s cuts included the elimination of a part-time social studies teaching position at Oak Hill High School that had cost the district $30,000, a $29,000 reduction in the amount paid for salaries and a $21,000 reduction in workers’ compensation costs. They also reduced proposed technology costs by $10,000 and the amount paid for administrator retirement by $10,000.

A district budget meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. July 13 at Oak Hill High School. Each town will hold a referendum vote on the proposal July 26.

The district rejected the board’s first budget proposal 483-465. The only town to cast more “no” than “yes” votes was Litchfield, where the budget was rejected 285-227.

One of the reasons for the proposed budget increase was a $422,014 reduction in the amount of state aid to the district for the 2017 school year. The budget proposal also included a $341,711 increase for, among other things, a bus, textbooks, technology investments and a new dean of students position that was meant to address an increase in problematic behavior by students.

RSU 4 Superintendent James Hodgkin said the board was able to drop the part-time teaching position at the high school because the person who used to hold it had moved to a separate, full-time position and the district hadn’t filled the vacancy yet.

“We feel pretty lucky,” he said. “Things change all the time, and we did a lot of hiring and were able to realize some savings with the new people. We were able to find $100,000 to cut without affecting any particular program.”

Last week, several Litchfield voters said they disapproved of the school budget that had been proposed and thought that there were areas that could be cut from it.

Hodgkin disputed those assertions. He said the board was able to propose some of the most recent cuts only because of information that has just become available, and that estimates used earlier in the budget process, such as the amount needed to cover workers’ compensation, have been updated with that new information.

“I continue to be frustrated by the rumor, what’s being said around the RSU, that there is still a lot that can be cut in the budget,” he said. “There isn’t really any fat or pork or whatever you want to call it. If we have to cut any more, it would be teacher or personnel costs.”

Some Litchfield voters also think that because their town has a higher tax valuation than Wales and Sabattus, they bear a disproportionate share of the district’s education costs. Last week, RSU 4 board member Scott Weeks, of Litchfield, said he would propose changing the district’s funding formula in 2017.

This isn’t the first time in recent years when voters have rejected the RSU 4 budget. In 2015, voters in June defeated the original budget by about 30 votes, requiring another vote in July. And in 2013, the budget was twice rejected by voters before gaining final approval in August of that year.

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @ceichacker


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