Richmond Middle/High School is seen in October 2022. The municipal school department says its former parent district, Hallowell-based Regional School Unit 2, owes it nearly $800,000 in federal pandemic relief funds. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

RICHMOND – Regional School Unit 2 may owe the Richmond school district nearly $800,000 in federal coronavirus relief funds, officials say. 

Interim superintendent of the Richmond School Department, Bob Webster, said at a Jan. 18 school board meeting that he is working with the district’s attorney to figure out the next steps in obtaining the money from RSU 2, which is believed to total around $776,000. But, without the Hallowell-based district’s audit, which is late, it’s difficult to tell the exact amount owed, he said.

Richmond was a part of RSU 2 when Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief, or ESSER, funds were awarded during the pandemic. The town withdrew and formed its own school district last year. 

Richmond School Department Interim Superintendent Bob Webster. Photo courtesy of Bob Webster

Conversation around Richmond’s portion of the ESSER money began in December when Bruce Beasley, a resident and retired superintendent, brought up the issue with the Richmond school board. He explained that since RSU 2 has not yet received any reimbursements from the state, some of the allocated relief funds belong to Richmond.

“As a Richmond taxpayer, as of June 30, 2023, when this separation went into effect, this should have been cleared up,” Beasley said. “We shouldn’t sit on $3 million somewhere, because the Richmond taxpayers paid a portion of the RSU 2 budget right up until the end of June 2023.”

Under the withdrawal agreement between RSU 2 and the Richmond School Department that splits the old district’s assets, RSU 2 was required to release “Richmond’s qualifying share of any ESSER funds allocated to RSU 2, if any, as of July 1, 2023.”


ESSER funds, which have been allocated in three rounds to school districts across the country, expire at the end of 2024. But in order to receive the money, school districts must submit reimbursement requests to the Department of Education by Jan. 31, 2024, for qualified expenses.

Rick Amero, superintendent of Regional School Unit 2. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

The Maine DOE tracks the amount of money each school district across the state was allocated and percentage each district has received in reimbursements.

RSU 2 has been reimbursed $2,944,222, or 38% of the $4,793,775 it was allocated, according to state data.

Webster said he met with RSU 2 Superintendent Rick Amero to try and piece together a list of what money belongs to Richmond.  

The specifics of RSU 2’s ESSER spending have historically been murky, dating back to 2021 when Tonya Arnold was the superintendent. The Kennebec Journal tried to obtain a list of coronavirus funding expenditures and, through a Freedom of Access Act request, found school board members had also questioned the spending and were denied a complete list of expenses. 

The $776,000 Webster believes belongs to the Richmond district reflects spending on projects ranging from employee training to tent rentals to pay for substitute teachers and construction work on the buildings including heat pumps and updating the sprinkler system.  


To figure out the exact cost of what RSU 2 owes Richmond, the RSU 2 audit is needed. However, RSU 2 is two years behind in its audits. The DOE does not have a penalty for a late audit if the district explains the delay — many districts’ audits were behind this year because of a shortage of auditors.

RSU 2 has also struggled with high administrative turnover; the district has hired five superintendents in the past three years. The district serves Hallowell, Farmingdale, Dresden and Monmouth.

Amero started his role in the middle of Richmond’s withdrawal process and said that the list of what to spend ESSER money on was decided at the start of the pandemic, when Arnold was superintendent. Then, the involved people left, which he said has made the process “challenging.” On top of that, after Richmond’s withdrawal, Amero said the Maine DOE froze any changes to the projects.

“Our new central office team has been working diligently with Maine DOE to complete the invoicing of ESSER 3 to bring clarity,” Amero said to the Kennebec Journal. “As we continue to work through this, we are in regular communication with (Bob) Webster, Richmond’s interim superintendent, regarding progress.”

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