Skowhegan-area residents have a chance to weigh in Wednesday on Maine School Administrative District 54’s proposed $48.89 million budget. Spending on the new $75 million Margaret Chase Smith Community School in Skowhegan, above, is included in the spending plan, but because the state is picking up most of the tab for the new elementary school, it’s not driving the tax increase in next year’s budget, from which taxpayers will see an average increase of 3.95%. Morning Sentinel file photo

SKOWHEGAN — Voters in the six towns served by Maine School Administrative District 54 will have the opportunity Wednesday to weigh in on a proposed $48.89 million budget.

The district’s budget validation meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. at Skowhegan Area High School at 61 Academy Circle in Skowhegan.

Overall, proposed district spending is up $7.05 million, or 16.84%, over the budget approved last year. But much of that increase is attributed to state funding that passes through the district for the construction of the district’s new $75 million consolidated elementary school.

The state is picking up about 94% of the cost to build the Margaret Chase Smith Community School on Heselton Street in Skowhegan. Local fundraising, which hit its goal of $3 million earlier this year, and $1.9 million in federal funding will cover the rest of the cost, meaning that local taxpayers are not expected to pay for any of the construction.

Subtracting the state funding for the school construction and other state revenues, the budget reflects an effective increase of $2.38 million, or 5.7%, in spending over the current fiscal year. Much of that increase is due to negotiated salaries and benefits for the district’s more than 500 full-time employees, according to district officials.

By using a larger-than-usual amount of available fund balance and relying on increased revenues, the portion of the budget funded by local property taxes is projected to increase 3.95%.


The increase on taxes for each of the SAD 54’s six towns — Canaan, Cornville, Mercer, Norridgewock, Skowhegan and Smithfield — varies because of changes in state property valuations. Each town’s share of the budget is calculated based on its valuation in relation to the total valuation of the six towns.

If the budget is approved, the assessments for each town would increase the following amounts over the budget approved last year:

• Canaan, $82,941, or 7.14%

• Cornville, $6,570, or 0.73%

• Mercer, $39,850, or 6.63%

• Norridgewock, $111,667, or 5.67%


• Skowhegan, $261,031, or 2.69%

• Smithfield, $109,951, or 9.54%

In an informational budget guide sent to voters, district officials said they worked to reduce the increases in local property taxes. The board of directors agreed to use $1.22 million in available fund balance to offset taxation, much more than in years past.

“This approach is part of a multi-year plan in which the board will utilize additional fund balance (less each year) to limit the impact of increased costs on local property taxpayers,” officials wrote.

The board also cut several positions created as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as 12 other positions. Superintendent Jon Moody also froze spending in February as projected state funding did not keep up with rising costs from inflation, according to budget information.

At Wednesday’s meeting, voters will decide on 19 articles that comprise the budget.

On Tuesday, June 11, at the district’s budget validation referendum, voters will vote “yes” or “no” on whatever spending is approved at Wednesday’s meeting. Polls will be open at each town’s voting location that day, and absentee ballots are expected to be available Thursday, May 23.

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