OAKLAND — The school board for Regional School Unit 18 voted to adopt a budget slightly higher than the preliminary proposed budget at a meeting on Wednesday evening.

The $36.04 million proposed budget is 4.16 percent greater than last year’s approved budget of about $34.6 million for the district, which consists of Oakland, Sidney, China, Rome and Belgrade.

The increase includes a new Day One program, which uses the district as its fiscal agent for its Good Will-Hinckley program. The state Department of Education provides the funding, so the money merely passes through the district. With Day One removed from the budget, the increase is around 3.60 percent, superintendent Gary Smith said.

The preliminary budget was $35.96 million. The administration proposed adding an elementary school teacher, which would cost $50,000. The health insurance rate also came back as an increase over what the district budgeted for by 1.3 percent.

Board Chairman Jim Isgro, of Sidney, proposed using the additional state revenue the district might receive to hire a teacher, but some board members disagreed.

Board member Tom Burton, of Oakland, said he’s seen the board try to get by with the “minimum” for years, “and that hurts the kids, and I’m at a point where I think we need to stop doing that.”

“I think we need to be willing to stand up and say education is why we’re sitting on this board,” he added.

Karen Hatch-Gagne, of Sidney, said they had to consider the residents.

“The flip side is, we have to manage a budget that people in our communities can afford to support,” she said.

The board voted on whether to keep the extra teacher in the budget’s changes, approving the addition 5-2, with Isgro and Hatch-Gagne opposing the motion.

In other business, the board also voted unanimously to approve a warrant article that asks how to distribute any additional state revenue. The article asks that 50 percent of the potential revenue be used to reduce the local taxpayers’ cost, 25 percent for additional school costs and the remaining 25 percent to add to the district’s undesignated fund balance.

The preliminary budget increase is driven largely by additions to the special education budget because of increased need in the district. The district also is facing substantial cuts under Gov. Paul LePage’s proposed education spending plan, which recommended 48 changes to the funding formula for essential programs and services.

Under the plan, RSU 18 could stand to lose $750,000.

While school districts still are waiting to see what their state revenue will be, Smith is confident that the district will get something.

“I think there’s a strong possibility you will see some additional funds,” he said.

Madeline St. Amour — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @madelinestamour

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