Residents in Belgrade, China, Oakland, Rome, Sidney, Vassalboro and Winslow gave their public schools the green light Tuesday for spending in the 2019-2020 fiscal year. Voters approved the budgets for each of the three districts during validation referendums.

 

RSU 18

Regional School Unit 18, which includes Belgrade, China, Oakland, Rome and Sidney, approved a $38,655,456 figure. This is up 2.86% from the current districtwide budget, an increase Superintendent Carl Gartley attributed largely to rising health insurance costs for the district’s employees.

China, where the district’s highest voter turnout occurred, passed the school budget by the largest voter margin, with 261 “yes” votes to 139 “no” votes. The vote in Rome was closest, 41-12. Oakland passed the budget 149-29, Belgrade passed it 120-46, and Sidney passed it 75-40.

The budget previously had received support from about 40 residents who turned out May 16 at a five-town public hearing.

Belgrade will shoulder the largest chunk of the school budget, at 16.72%, or roughly $6.5 million, with Oakland contributing 15.8% ($5.8 million); China, 13.03% ($5 million); Sidney, 11.31% ($4.4 million); and Rome, 5.49% ($2.1 million). The state subsidy is $13.62 million.

Sheldon Goodine, a retired China fire chief, gets an “I Voted” sticker Tuesday after casting his ballot at the China Town Office. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

In terms of proportional tax increases for residents, Rome is looking at the largest bump, at $71.07 more per $100,000 of assessed home value than homeowners currently pay. Sidney follows close behind with a $70.16 proportional increase, then China ($59.11), Oakland ($55.73) and last, Belgrade ($24.93). Each town’s share is calculated by a state formula based on each municipality’s valuation, overall population and a host of other factors, in addition to an RSU 18-developed cost-sharing formula that is 75% based on the town valuation and 25% based on the number of students it enrolls in RSU 18 schools, according to Gartley and Rome school board representative Andy Cook.

The district’s schools are: Atwood Primary, Belgrade Central, China Middle, China Primary, James H. Bean, Messalonskee High, Messalonskee Middle and Williams Elementary schools.

All five towns also voted to maintain the school budget validation referendum system for the next three years. In Belgrade, the vote was 121 to keep the process and 44 to change to a vote at a public meeting, with one blank ballot; in China, it was 265 to keep the referendum process and 129 to change it, with no blank ballots; in Oakland, 121 to keep the process and 56 to change it, with one blank ballot; in Rome, 34 to keep the process and 18 to change it, also with one blank ballot; and in Sidney it was 71 to keep the process and 42 to change it, with two blank ballots.

 

WINSLOW

Winslow voters also showed support for the town’s three schools at the polls Tuesday. In a 129-43 vote, residents approved $16,275,873 of spending for the upcoming year, 4.51% more than the current school budget.

With the budget increase comes an 11.17% increase in locally raised funds for the schools, according to Superintendent Peter Thiboutot. Whereas $7.2 million of this year’s $15.6 million Winslow school budget came from property taxes, just over $8 million will be raised through taxes in the upcoming year. The state subsidy is just short of $350,000 this year, an increase of nearly 5% from last year’s state contribution.

Bond payments on the school renovation project, “minor capital projects,” an increase in employee salaries and benefits all have contributed to the larger budget figure this year for Winslow’s School Department, Thiboutot said. School administrators shaved nearly $1 million from the initially proposed local share of the budget, in part by cutting three new teacher and educational technician positions.

Winslow’s schools include Winslow Elementary, Winslow Junior High and Winslow High, though the junior high school is being phased out as part of the renovation plan.

Residents elected to keep the budget validation referendum process for the school budget and review its efficacy again in three years. The vote on that question was 114 yes to 57 no, with one blank ballot.

 

VASSALBORO

In Vassalboro, residents gave thumbs up to a school budget that did not require any tax increases for property owners. The $7,703,908 figure passed in a decisive 87-14 vote. It will support the town’s sole school, the prekindergarten-through-eighth-grade Vassalboro Community School, as well as the tuition for Vassalboro’s high school students to enroll at a school of their choice.

Superintendent Alan Pfeiffer said the district was able to keep costs down primarily because there were more graduating seniors this year than incoming high school students for the upcoming school year.

Townspeople also approved of keeping the school budget validation referendum for another three years, rather than opting to vote on the budget at a public meeting. That measure received 63 yes votes and 37 nos.

 

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