HALLOWELL – Money for a teacher and a full-time guidance counselor for Dresden Elementary School have been added back into next year’s Regional School Unit 2 spending plan.

Those changes came at the regional budget meeting on Thursday where voters ultimately passed the $28 million budget for the next fiscal year and added $142,000 for the positions.

The meeting drew around 60 people to Hall-Dale High School’s gymnasium, where the four municipalities voted on the 17 warrant articles for 2023-24 fiscal year budget. It was the first regional budget meeting since the COVID-19 pandemic; municipalities for the past two years have voted for the budget by secret ballot.

Money for the two positions was added Thursday night following a proposal from Dresden resident Peter Walsh. Attendees heard emotional testimony from a Dresden Elementary School teacher who said they “are going to be in a position where we have to tell students we can’t help them” and a parent who explained how needed the positions are within the school.

Per state guidelines for regional school board meetings, the positions cannot be added by the public directly, but voters can appropriate money back into the budget for the school board to then add the positions. The two positions added $142,000 to the total budget — $90,000 for the teaching position and $52,000 to change the guidance position to full-time instead of the budgeted part-time position.

The board of directors cannot do anything about the added money until the June 13 referendum vote when the four municipalities — Monmouth, Hallowell, Dresden and Farmingdale — will vote on the budget total.


Thursday’s conversation revolved around the cuts, specifically to the Dresden community. Dresden resident Ryan Cote said more than ever, students rely on their teachers to teach and protect them, and cutting them from the budget that is 80% teachers will only impact the students in the long run.

“What we are looking at now is filling the gas tank of the bus halfway and expecting them to go the whole route,” Cote said.

Board member Jeffrey Bickford spoke of the two positions from his perspective as a Dresden representative and said the decision to cut them from the budget was “not personal” and each school in the district had positions removed to balance the budget.

“There is no organization in the world that doesn’t have its setbacks,” Bickford said. “Unfortunately, it equals loss of positions and as much as it sucks, it does, it’s nothing personal. As a resident of Dresden, of all the schools I’d like to see flourish, is Dresden (Elementary School).”

But mother Holly Morgan, who has two children at Dresden Elementary School, said for her, “it is personal” because the two positions at the school directly impact her son’s well-being.

“Taking away the social and emotional aspect and reducing a teacher, it is personal to me, and it could greatly affect not only my children, but the children of the very parents sitting up there (in the audience),” Morgan said. “From a mother who loves her children more than anything and someone who is trained in special education and works as a behavior analyst in another district, it’s personal to my son’s life.”


Residents voted 33-26 in favor of amending Article 1, Regular Instruction, where the $90,000 for the teaching position was added. Another vote was 37-24 in favor of amending Article 5, Special Services, to add another $52,000 to expand the guidance counselor position. The increases brought Regular Instruction to $9,721,741 and Special Services to $2,582,808.

To Bickford’s point, Superintendent Rick Amero read the positions that were cut from the budget this year across the district, which include: three building and grounds positions, three special ed techs, a special ed teacher, a French and Spanish world language teacher, among the 11 grant-funded positions from the expiration of ESSER funds (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds).

The cut positions drew controversy this budget season in the community, mainly for the Japanese program that was originally cut, but later restored after the community lobbied for it to be added back into the budget. Money for the other positions were not restored by community members and the remainder of the amended $28,156,143 budget, representing a 2.2% increase, passed as is.

Amero said the reason for the budget cuts stemmed from Richmond’s withdrawal as the shared costs that had been split five-ways now fall entirely onto the remaining four municipalities. In addition, the budget reflects the loss of ESSER funding and the impact of inflation on other costs. Amero said the board took into consideration the dwindling enrollment of the schools in Monmouth and Dresden Elementary School.

Additionally, the special education budget increased by $366,000 and transportation costs are up by $233,000. The teacher collective bargaining agreement makes up 80% of the budget. Position cuts were $380,000, building and grounds decreased by $114,000 and the stipends for coaching were limited and will decrease by $30,000 for next year.

The local additional, where the two new positions will be funded, will go directly to the municipalities. The total cost of the local additional, which received one “nay” vote is the amended amount of $8,216,164. The total appropriated by municipality, the amount that has to be raised to get the state funding, is $19,765,961.

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