Voters in the towns of Litchfield, Wales and Sabattus have approved the construction of a new roof on Oak Hill High School, a project that could begin as early as June and that will receive considerable state funding.

Voters from those towns, which make up Regional School Unit 4, approved the roof project in a 219-40 vote Tuesday, Superintendent Jim Hodgkin said.

Also this week, the RSU 4 board of directors approved a $18.73 million budget for the 2017-2018 school year, Hodgkin said. That budget is down 0.37 percent from this year’s $18.8 million budget. It will receive a public hearing on May 24 before going to voters on June 13.

Earlier this month, the RSU 4 board awarded the roof replacement project to a Lewiston firm that priced it at $792,000, but the total could exceed $900,000 because of overages and administrative work, Hodgkin has said.

The state Department of Education has offered to pay for two-thirds of the project as part of a revolving fund program for districts that need to repair and replace buildings, as long as the work costs less than $1 million. The state also has offered an interest-free 10-year loan for the remaining third of the project’s costs, Hodgkin said.

The proposed upgrades will improve the roof’s ability to hold snow. It will include the removal of asphalt shingles currently on the roof and the addition of a rubber membrane. The project also includes structural upgrades, such as the installation of fabricated wood trusses, glue-laminated framing and metal decking.

In the budget that the RSU 4 board has approved for next year, the district will not make any changes to its staffing or programs, Hodgkin said, but the district was able to remove around $300,000 in spending because it made the final payment on a state-funded bond this year. There will be some unavoidable increases in oil prices, electricity prices and salaries, Hodgkin said.

The state has pledged to provide an extra $105,000 in funding to the RSU 4 towns next year, which came as a welcome surprise to Hodgkin.

“I didn’t foresee that we were getting an increase,” he said. “It’s about time we got a break.”

The total tax obligation for each of the district’s three towns will go down next year, Hodgkin said, with Litchfield, Wales and Sabattus totals declining about $26,000, $30,000 and $112,000, respectively.

In early March, Hodgkin announced that he is resigning at the end of this school year, in part because of the declining amounts of state aid to RSU 4 and the challenges they’ve created. Later that month, the district announced that RSU 4 curriculum director Andrew Carlton will replace Hodgkin.

Some Litchfield residents have expressed frustration about increasing school funding costs and the fact that they must pay the greatest share of the budget in RSU 4, when Sabattus has more students than Litchfield. The current year’s $18.8 million budget was not approved by taxpayers until September, after Litchfield taxpayers voted it down twice.

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @ceichacker

 

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