HALLOWELL — Regional School Unit 2 approved a 3% budget increase and will pay the district’s former superintendent until June 30.

The school board unanimously approved a $33,770,829 budget for 2022-23 on April 14, up $984,671 from the current budget. Residents of the five municipalities it serves — Hallowell, Farmingdale, Richmond, Dresden and Monmouth — will vote on the budget June 14.

Before the board approved the budget, the district met with officials from the five municipalities to go over the proposal. The municipal officials, who were upset by sudden increases in past years and said they felt the district wasn’t being transparent enough, said they were “grateful” to have a look this year and to be included in the budget process before a proposal is sent to voters.

At that meeting, on April 5, Business Manager Stephanie Saltzman explained that most of the increase to the budget is from inflation and rising fuel and insurance prices, similar to what school districts across central Maine are facing. RSU 2 has one of the smaller budget increases, at 3%, compared to the 5% increases at both Readfield-area Regional School Unit 38 and Gardiner-area Maine School Administrative District 11. The Augusta Public Schools are facing a 6% increase.

The system administration portion of the budget is $1,005,458 — a 27% increase, or difference of $216,435. Included in this portion of the budget is a new payroll and computer system, which is necessary because the system the district currently uses expires at the end of the year.

The district will not have to account for extra spending during the transition of the superintendent role from Tonya Arnold, who resigned in February, to Matt Gilbert, who was previously the district’s assistant superintendent. Gilbert was appointed acting superintendent after Arnold took a leave of absence the first week on January and stepped down a month into the leave, citing health-related issues.

Advertisement

The RSU 2 board of directors agreed to pay Arnold through June 30, a year before her contract was due to expire. Since her resignation, she has continued to receive biweekly $5,320 checks. The last one was issued April 15, according to payroll documents supplied by the district. Her annual salary is $134,000.

Gilbert is not receiving extra compensation for the roughly five months he will have spent as acting superintendent, and is instead getting paid his assistant superintendent salary of $109,000 through June 30. He will begin earning a superintendent salary July 1, when he formally takes over the role. He will be paid $125,000 a year — $9,000 less than Arnold.

The district has continued to pay Arnold’s cellphone reimbursement of $37.50 every other week, and will do so until June 30, according to Gilbert. Arnold also received $1,500 of the $4,000 allowed in her contract to cover travel costs in the capital area each year. The last travel reimbursement she received was about two months before her leave of absence, on Oct. 29, according to payroll documents.

The district was able to use Emergency Secondary School and Elementary Relief (ESSER) money to pay for things such as social workers and additional nurses so there is one in each school building. Funding for student and staff support decreased by 4.7% to $3,018,099, or a difference of $151,104, as did “other instruction,” which went down 5.54% to $922,854, or a difference of $54,170.

The state allocation, Saltzman said at the April 5 meeting, is up from 55% to 60%. The school district will receive $14,894,510 — $553,130 more than last year.

As for what the municipalities are expected to contribute to the budget, the town allocations are up by a total of 3.57%:

Advertisement

• Monmouth will pay $5,680,127 — an increase of 5.4%, a difference of $289,424 from last year.

• Richmond will pay $3,773,118 — an increase of 5.5%, a difference of $195,275 from last year.

• Hallowell will pay $3,426,904 — an increase of 4.6%, a difference of $151,746 from last year.

• Farmingdale will pay $3,120,998 — an increase of 7.2%, a difference of $209,623 from last year.

• Dresden will pay $1,957,170 — an increase of 6.8%, a difference of $123,892 from last year.

The regular instruction cost is proposed at an increase of 1.63% at $12,457,801, or a difference of $200,079 from the current budget. Special education is proposed to go up 3.05% to $5,434,931, or a difference of $160,696.

The district will hold public hearings with the municipalities on May 26 in the Monmouth Academy gymnasium at 6 p.m., ahead of the June 14 budget vote.

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.