HALLOWELL — Despite municipal officials urging additional cuts to the proposed 2021-2022 budget, the Regional School Unit 2 school board’s Finance Committee is not going to do so.

The full school board will consider approving it Thursday night, before sending it on to residents of the district to vote on June 8.

Monday night, a presentation to municipal officials resulted in concern that the school spending would mean the member towns and city would have to make significant cuts to their municipal budgets. On Tuesday, the Finance Committee kept its stance that its responsibility was to fund the school district, not worry about how municipal governments would manage their spending plans.

RSU 2 school board member Chris Myers Asch asked what the municipal reaction to the budget was and Chairperson Jon Hamann admitted it “wasn’t positive.”

“It’s not going over well and we recognize that, but at the same time, we have been really responsible with the budget on the costs side and that’s our responsibility,” Hamann said. “Some of the town managers asked how they are going to pave their roads and buy fire trucks, but that’s not our responsibility to budget for, ours is to provide a budget for RSU 2.

“If the voters don’t want to support it,” he added, “we have to figure out how to make substantial cuts.”

RSU 2 Superintendent Tonya Arnold explained the spending increases again Tuesday night, offering reasons for why they were necessary. No one had any question for her or the board members during the presentation.

Arnold explained $500,000 less in carryover funds was one big reason why municipalities are feeling a larger impact with the proposed spending plan, in comparison to previous budgets.

“It would have gone up a couple more percent last year and this year, they would only have felt the 3%,” she said, “but we basically hid the increase last year by giving the tax credit, so now, you have to pay.”

Proposed spending for next year is $32.61 million, an increase of $985,149 — or 3.12% — from the current budget of $31.62 million.

As Arnold and Hamann explained, increases to the local additional part of the budget — for staffing and resources greater than what is recommended by the state — is the main impact to the municipalities’ tax rates.

The local share increases total $1.39 million among the five municipalities in the current 2021-2022 budget proposal. The breakdown is:

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

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

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

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

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

“Teacher costs related to changeovers, new teacher leaves, higher teacher incomes, the increase in salaries, ed tech changes,” Arnold said. “We did a good job on keeping it as flat as possible.”

While Arnold and Business Manager Vicki Raymond have noted teacher and staff salary increases as big cost drivers, administration costs have also increased.

As part of the 3.77% increase in system administration spending, Arnold said the $28,702 increase is for “an overall collective wage increase in all levels of staffing in the office,” liability insurance, and “increased legal fees due to the difficult times we are experiencing.”

That increase doesn’t include a steep salary hike for Assistant Superintendent Mary Paine, who saw her pay rise by $23,425 — or 28.37% — from the 2019-2020 school year. In a contract agreed to prior to that year, she was to be paid $82,575 for the 2019-2020 school year and $95,000 for the 2020-2021 school year. Prior to the start of this academic year, that contract was amended to increase her pay to $106,000.

“My understanding is that the assistant superintendent salary was set last year based on a change in organizational structure and responsibility expected of that position and after a review of statewide data for that role,” Arnold said told the Kennebec Journal last week. “Going forward, decisions about that salary rest with the superintendent, and I will use that same method for review that we use for all nonunion positions not appointed directed by the board.”

The school administration spending is increasing by $78,774 — 4.71% — and includes office wages, benefits, insurances, supplies, advertising and software. A new cost is the result of increasing to a full-time Dresden Elementary School principal. Sara Derosby is contracted to make $75,000 in the 2021-2022 school year.

Dresden Elementary saw a secretary position increased to full-time status, as was the Hall-Dale Middle and High School athletic director/dean position. Those accounted for the addition of $27,862 of the school administration increase.

Hamann noted that since the board didn’t offer any feedback, he expects all members to vote in favor of the budget Thursday night. That meeting takes place at 6 p.m. via Zoom.

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