Regional School Unit 2’s proposed spending plan of $30.56 million for 2019-2020 is up by a significant amount — 9.71% more — but property taxpayers wouldn’t feel that pinch.

The spending bump is largely a result of the district making its first payment on the new Monmouth consolidated school, $2,156,362, but that payment will be funded by state subsidy.

“The new Monmouth building flows through our budget, since it is 100% state-funded,” RSU 2 Superintendent Bill Zima said.

Minus that payment, the spending plan increase voters could feel is $548,813.80 — or 1.97% — more than last year’s approved budget, which was $27,859,205.

The new Monmouth school will consolidate and replace the town’s middle and grade schools with a new, 70,000-square-foot facility that will stand next door to the town’s high school. It is expected to open in January 2020.

Local effects in each of the member communities would be:

• Dresden: $1,717,226, a 0.74% increase of $12,695;

• Farmingdale: $2,679,316, a 0.55% increase of $14,659;

• Hallowell: $3,899,652, a 1.54% increase of $46,865;

• Monmouth: $4,899,652, a 1.39% increase of $67,798; and

• Richmond: $3,354,279, a 1.08% increase of $36,089.

How much each of the communities contributes to the school’s spending plan is determined largely by Essential Programs and Services. Through a formula based on state valuations and populations of each town, the EPS determines the foundation allocation — that is, the bare minimum each town must pay.

The formula also determines how much each town will spend for the local additional — that is, what it costs to run the district above what the EPS determines the minimum should be. For example, class sizes are slightly smaller in the district, and opportunities for after-school athletics are greater than what EPS requires.

The state valuation of Dresden is $139,750,000; Farmingdale, $224,700,000; Hallowell, $256,800,000; Monmouth, $418,450,000; and Richmond, $278,000,000.

How the school district’s spending plan could affect the tax rate in each of the communities is unknown because municipal budgets are not final.

If voters accept this spending plan, the district would add several new positions, including social workers, educational technicians, a dean and a response-to-intervention specialist.

“What’s been showing up more and more in recent years is a need for social and emotional support for our students,” RSU 2 board Chairman Jonathan Hamann said.

Three full-time social workers would support the students across the three regions of the district: Dresden and Richmond, Hallowell and Farmingdale, and Monmouth. The district currently has one half-time social worker.

State subsidy has also decreased for families that need assistance from social workers, said Zima.

“We’re trying to make up for that,” he said.

A part-time dean of students would work at Richmond Middle School and High School. Last year, the district added the position at Monmouth Academy.

This position would be responsible for supervising the general climate of student population, Zima explained, such as checking in with students who are having difficulties. This would give principals an opportunity to work with their teachers on curriculum.

A response-to-intervention specialist would be hired at Hall-Dale Elementary School, where the principal oversees a school with 420 students. Rather than hire another administrator, such as an assistant principal, the specialist would focus on student behavior, and assisting with literacy and numeracy education.

Also, the district will add an education technician III to help with general education at each of its four elementary schools. This level of education technician can execute lesson plans, though teachers write the plans.

The proposed spending plan underwent several reductions. Some are attributed to the district’s participation with the Kennebec Valley Student Support Regional Service Center, of which the district has been a member for two years.

Developed by the Maine Department of Education, an RSC is a multi-service agency comprised of area school districts, giving them the opportunity to pool resources, such as transportation, substitute teachers, professional development for teachers and summer schooling.

“The idea is to consolidate programs and save money,” Zima said. “We were already doing this.”

He said the district already had been working with RSU 38 and Winthrop Public Schools, which are also part of the RSC, to consolidate resources.

“We have the same goal to be efficient with our resources,” Zima said.

The district also improved spending on utilities. More-efficient heating systems that use natural gas and propane were installed, and control systems were updated.

Hamann also noted that when the new Monmouth school opens in January 2020, the district’s most expensive facilities — Henry L. Cottrell Elementary School and Monmouth Middle School — will close.

The response from town leaders on the budget has been positive, Hamann said.

“We maintained a small increase, and they appreciate us maintaining a budget that’s responsible,” he said.

The public budget hearing at which residents will vote on the warrant articles is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday at Hall-Dale High School in Farmingdale.

If voters approve those warrant articles for the 2019-2020 school year, the budget will head to the polls for a validation vote June 11 in each of the communities.

The district has 1,999 students, including 54 students from outside the five towns.

 


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