HALLOWELL — Regional School District 2 was able to cut nearly $100,000 from next year’s school budget, but the overall increase to the budget is still an issue, according to Hallowell Mayor George Lapointe.

The district found there would be no increase in insurance costs, so it reduced that spending line by $145,000. But the board agreed to changes in job descriptions for two positions, increasing duties and salaries, which resulted in an addition of $38,000.

The proposed spending plan for the 2021-2022 school year after those changes is $32.61 million — a $985,150 — or 2.99% — increase from the previous year’s budget of $31.62 million.

Lapointe attended RSU 2’s finance committee meeting Thursday night via Zoom and told the board about his disappointment in the school district for not doing a better job of including its member municipalities in the budget process.

“The RSU 2 budget eats up half our budget and impacts our ability to do long-term planning,” Lapointe said. “We need a new fire truck, but we can’t do it. … The juxtaposition on how we do budgets together is frustrating for us.”

He added that the Hallowell City Council was unable to attend the last RSU 2 Finance Committee meeting because it took place the same night as the council’s meeting. RSU 2 Superintendent Tonya Arnold told Lapointe she would have a meeting with the town and district Business Manager Vicki Raymond to go over the changes.

“Just given the process, and our meeting has been known for a long time, it just doesn’t feel right,” Lapointe said.

Lapointe said he attended the meeting after seeing the town of Hallowell would have had an 8.77% increase with RSU 2’s original spending budget.

The “local additional” part of RSU 2’s budget is what is accounting for the increased taxes in Richmond, Dresden, Hallowell, Farmingdale and Monmouth. Those amounts are funds for which the district has to make up the difference between what it has determined is necessary for spending and what the state recommends. Raymond said at previous Finance Committee meetings that RSU 2 budgets for additional nurses and educational technicians beyond what the state recommends.

The school board agreed on the budget changes unanimously, which still includes an increase of $1.39 million in the local share of the expenses. If the budget is approved by voters in June, the local shares are anticipated to be:

• Dresden: $1.9 million, an increase of $155,722 — or 8.8% — over its current $1.7 million.

• Farmingdale: $3 million, an increase of $256,092 — or 9% — over its current $2.8 million.

• Hallowell: $3.4 million, an increase of $227,085 — or 7% — over its current $3.2 million.

• Monmouth: $5.6 million, an increase of $492,431 — or 9.5% — over its current $5.1 million.

• Richmond: $3.7 million, an increase of $259,965 — or 7.4% — over its current $3.4 million.

Though the total increase in spending for the RSU 2 budget is $946,684, the towns will have to make up for $500,000 less in carryover funds and $93,854 less from the state Department of Education from the current budget.

Raymond said 85% of the budget increases are due to costs beyond their control, like the cost of running the schools and nonnegotiable teacher contracts.

The spending breakdown, by budget area, is:

• Regular instruction: $12,257,724, an increase of $400,824 — or 3% — over the current $11.8 million.

• Special education: $5,274,435, an increase of $263,132 — or 5.2% — over the current $5 million.

• Other instruction: $966,421, an increase of $37,136 — or 3.8% — over the current $929,285.

• Student and staff support: $3,025,481, an increase of $117,080 — or 4% — over the current $2.9 million.

• System administration — $789,022, an increase of $28,702 — or 3.7% — over the current $760,320.

• Transportation — $1,683,644, an increase of 78,774 — or 1% — over the current $1.6 million.

• Operations and Maintenance saw a decrease of $31,820.

• Debt service had a decrease of $11,094.

• Other expenditures to pay — $167,582, an increase of $33,160 — or 24% — over the current $134,421.

“I know a lot of the towns aren’t happy with the increase,” RSU 2 Board Member Jon Lambert said. “I think we have done a good job at making it reasonable with the quality and depth of the programs we decide.

“I wish we were getting more state revenue, but it’s not where we are and I think the towns are feeling more of a pinch,” he added, “but I think we have been reasonable.”

The next RSU 2 budget meeting will take place April 12, when the school board will present the budget to municipal officials.

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