HALLOWELL – Regional School Unit 2 officials are staring down the possibility of expenses surging $1.5 million under next year’s budget as the four-town district reckons with its first year without Richmond. 

The RSU 2 finance committee did not share specific numbers on Thursday night because of how fast the budget proposal changes, but with all the necessary expenses factored in the budget is already at a $1.5 million increase from last year’s budget amount of $34.2 million.

The town allocation is at a proposed increase of 6% to 8%, depending on the municipality, even as the numbers are updated and fluctuate in the coming months. 

Jim Grandahl, the committee chair, attributed the budget increase factors to the federal COVID-19 funds ending and Richmond’s withdrawal from the district. Administrators said that special education will have a significant increase of around $500,000. 

Grandahl admitted the next fiscal year’s budget is “not going to be perfect” and suggested the district make a two-year plan for getting the budget on track after Richmond’s exit.  

“The perception in town is that because Richmond’s gone, (the budget) is 20% less, but you can’t do it that way,” said Grandahl, mentioning that there are positions that still exist that can’t be split by 20%, such as the central office. 


For reference, the town allocation for the $34.2 million budget, passed minimally last year, was $18.4 million, split between the five municipalities. And now, Richmond will not be included in the local allocation that will now be split four ways instead among Dresden, Farmingdale, Hallowell and Monmouth. 

Richmond withdrew from the district in November and will be on its own as the Richmond School Department starting July 1, as it hires an interim superintendent and its own staff. Staff that spend more than 51% of their time in Marcia Buker Elementary School and Richmond Middle and High School will be employed under Richmond.

The RSU 2 board recognized that the already-proposed increase is a big ask for taxpayers, but also that the district, students and teachers need the positions more than ever and that it will come at a high cost. 

“To make it human, realistically in a time of high inflation, there are people struggling and asking people for more money is going to be a hard ask,” said board member Aimee Campbell O’Connor. “In the middle of a mental health crisis, teachers are struggling, we are going to need more money, but asking for as little as we can after we have done what we can.” 

RSU 2 Superintendent Rick Amero acknowledged the “significant” increase to taxpayers and said he met with the administrative team to figure out areas of the budget that could be trimmed, keeping in line with the “district’s vision” to do what’s best for all learners. 

Amero explained the budget process and said they started with what shared costs and resources could be used through the district — Dresden Elementary School shared resources with Marcia Buker School in Richmond but will no longer be able to, and now that the 5th graders moved from Hall-Dale Middle School to Hall-Dale Elementary School, different support systems will be needed.  


District officials also looked at the empty positions in the district and retirements.  

“I’m hearing from teachers, but also administrators, on what they see are wants versus needs,” Amero said. “That is difficult, because I can look you in the eye and say that every one of these positions benefits kids, but what we are facing now with numbers, it might not be realistic.” 

Amero said the empty positions are three education technicians for special education, of which they will keep two in the budget; a building and grounds position; a van driver; an IT technician; three custodian positions; and a benefits coordinator. The positions are needed still but have not been filled. 

The superintendent was tasked with cutting the budget more before the next meeting and before the board’s finance committee decides what additional expenses to add to the budget. He said he will keep the district’s vision in mind when he makes the cuts. 

“We have a strength as a district,” Amero said, “and we haven’t always realized those and now, more than ever, we have to find a way to collaborate across the district in the position we are in.” 

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