Franklin Countys First News

Forum on RSU 9 budget is May 26, last remote learning day is June 5

FARMINGTON - Directors voted to hold a public forum for the proposed $38.2 million budget for Regional School Unit 9 on May 26 via Zoom videoconferencing as well as implemented a modified calendar for the last few days of school at Tuesday evening's meeting.

The budget being presented Tuesday includes roughly $200,000 in reductions as compared to previously-presented drafts. Reductions include removing approximately $178,000 in contingency funds, as well as funds previously earmarked to purchase iPads, wireless microphones at the high school and a golf cart for the athletics department. Superintendent Tina Meserve said that the district could afford to reduce the contingency funds due to a combination of retirements and resignations that would leave excess money in wage lines. In some cases, such as for the iPads, federal CARES Act funds could be used to fill gaps, Meserve said.

As presented, the $38,226,924 K-12 budget would represent an increase of $1.1 million or 2.97 percent over the current fiscal year. As As is the case in previous years, state subsidy is up through a combination of increases in enrollment - the district had gained 141 students in the past three years, $212,000 in additional state funding for system administration and more support for career and technical education through the Foster Career and Technical Center.

With Adult Education expenditures accounted for, the budget would utilize $13.5 million in local assessments, a decrease of $188,992, or 1.4 percent less local money raised and appropriated as compared to the current fiscal year. If passed as proposed, the budget would lead to decreases in assessments in five towns and increases in the other five. Specifically, Chesterville would see a decrease of $44,566 or 4.19 percent; Farmington would see a decrease of $157,882 or 3.28 percent; Industry would see an increase of $6,920 or 0.74 percent; New Sharon would see an increase of $2,364 or 0.23 percent; New Vineyard would see an increase of $12,234 or 1.6 percent; Starks would see an increase of $23,180 or 4.82 percent; Temple would see an decrease of $3,835 or .89 percent; Vienna would see an increase of $1,822 or .25 percent; Weld would see a decrease of $24,946 or 5.03 percent; and Wilton would see a decrease of $4,282 or .16 percent.

The board has spent significant time discussing three elements of the budget: an assistant superintendent position, funding for the Success & Innovation Center and including supports for students struggling with drug and alcohol issues. The budget includes funds for a part-time assistant superintendent position that Meserve and supporting directors say it is necessary for a district of RSU 9's size and will positively impact student progress. The part-time position's full cost is $60,000 but the proposal includes moving $20,000 of the curriculum coordinator's salary into grant funding, due to that employee's work in writing and supporting grant projects.  That position has drawn criticism as well, particularly amid the uncertainties surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. Public comment Tuesday evening consisted of Selectperson Tom Saviello of Wilton asking the board to consider removing the position from the budget and Doug Hodum, speaking on behalf of members of the teacher's association, who said that teachers concerned about the issue felt that it wasn't the time to add administrative positions.

The SIC provides a place for students to come to get help on projects, help accessing resources for specific problems or help coping with day-to-day life. The center is staffed by a teacher and an ed tech and has been funded by a GEAR Up grant for three years, ending this year. Some directors have advocated adding local money to the budget to keep funding that program. The budget proposed Tuesday evening doesn't include that, with Meserve instead suggesting covering half a teaching position utilizing CARES Act money and merging that with a preexisting half-time alternative education instructor position to staff the center.

Alcohol abuse is an issue that directors have begun discussing, with some advocating for additional funding and/or positions to address the issue. The proposed budget doesn't include that, although Meserve said that she does intend to request CARES Act funding to look at ways to address the issue.

The board voted to advance the budget to the public forum, although that won't be the directors' final vote on the matter. The board will need to vote after the forum but prior to the annual budget meeting, looking ahead to a referendum vote tentatively scheduled for July 14, the day of the state referendum. The public forum on Tuesday, May 26 will be held through Zoom at 7 p.m. The link is available here.

Information about the budget committee's presentations and deliberations can be found here, including video from the meetings.

In other business, the school board agreed with a proposal to make June 10 the students' last day before summer vacation. Pre-COVID-19, the district's last student day would have been June 16. Maine Department of Education has indicated that it will support local school board's seeking to modify the previously-approved calendar.

The calendar adopted by the board Tuesday would have the final remote learning day for most students scheduled for Friday, June 5, with current seniors at Mt. Blue High School having their last remote learning day on May 29. June 8 to June 10 would be used to wrap up any miscellaneous issues with students, such as getting school-issued material turned in.

June 11 and June 12 are official staff workdays, but the district will instead hold them in August for whatever transition work is necessary to prepare for the new year. June 15 and June 16 would be flex days for salaries staff. Hourly staff would continue to work their regular schedules/contracted days.

The revised schedule seeks to try and accommodate sending schools relying on Foster Tech, Meserve said.

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15 Responses »

  1. What a waste of time. The budget as proposed will not pass. Can't believe they are asking for increases in this day and time. Totally ignorant of what is going on in the economy and the real world!

  2. Just finished watching the video regarding the budget information, if I'm not mistaken Tina M stated that the adult education portion of the budget also impacts the tax rate for each town which I understand and don't have an issue with. My question is, is that just for the actual school type class or does it include all of the classes offered ? Maybe someone could enlighten me?

  3. The debate over an assistant superintendent has been lengthy the last couple zoom meetings. I heard the super tell the board even if they had voted down the assistant position she would leave it in because she feels it is essential to the district. I Paraphrased her words of course as I don’t have the video to go back and quote her directly. This seems like the superintendent is telling her bosses what will happen and that seems like insubordination if you ask me. Maybe it’s time to wake these people up and vote this budget and any other proposals down they send and in the end perhaps even find yet another superintendent. Does anyone have any of the old signs from a fee years ago so we can put Meserve over Ward. It would save money unlike what this district is doing. I do appreciate my board member and Mr Stickney standing up for us lowly stupid taxpayers that pay these entitled public servants.

  4. Another administrator is not what students need.

  5. Couple of points. 1: insubordination is grounds for dismal. 2: the board as a whole needs to get their heads out of wherever and look around. Increasing an already over inflated budget is unacceptable. PS, where are those signs ? They are needed. Good idea Awww.

  6. I support the idea of an asst. super.Once hired their paycheck should come out of the current super's current salary since she was hired and being paid to do the job,if she can't afford one on these terms we don't need an asst. super just a replacement super.The old rsu9 money pit is drying up this year.

  7. Maybe a citizens petition for a vote of no confidence! I wonder if I am the only one that feels this way.

  8. Agreement is in order for most above comments.How could anyone in their right mind ask for more money and new positions at this time Don't they realize that those now unemployed worry every day about which bill gets paid, or what portionof it, how to pay mortgage, rent,utilities,buy food,etc. AND whether and when the COVID 19 thingwill go away? An asst. superintendent needed? Ridiculous! That position has come and gone in this district several times. It wasn't deemed necessary one time when there were 3200+ students! She knew when hired what the job entailed. Is she saying she can no longer do it without help? Then good-by, time to find a new super!Most board members swallowing this request hook line and sinker! WOW Thought there were new thinkers on board.Guess not, anyway I know where there might be some signs and maybe some new ones could be found with a new message. Let us get together and get back some of the control we've lost. Let's support the students and teachers instead of a dictatorial administration!!!

  9. So there is a $212,000 increase because of student enrollment provided in additional state funding, but we are going to cut the number of days since the state allowed us to as a convenience to both staff and students. Two edged sword in one article.

    Pay more for less......?

  10. Anyone have any suggestions for wording on signs? Anyone who wants to donate a few bucks for signs or has comments can post same at CCSE P O Box 166 Farmington Falls ME 04940. THANKS , either way.

  11. This district is a shambles waiting to happen. Retirement of teachers is one thing, but perhaps the reasons the other teachers are leaving should be disclosed.
    Other districts are eliminating positions. I'm not saying that's the right tactic to use here. Something tells me with the shut-down, these teachers are busting butt to keep it together.
    HOWEVER, have there been any reductions in: Electricity Use? What about temperatures in schools?
    There's GOT to be some reduction in diesel because while we're running some buses, not all of them are on the road with two bus trips a day.
    Now...didn't we hire a "money manager" two years ago? And didn't we pay an extra office person to help Kris Pottle? No one is keeping track? The invoices are just rubber stamped with no question about spending?
    I can just imagine how everything is hidden. It's been that way for years and years. 4 years ago I asked for more transparency, and was practically laughed out of the building. They have no intention to honestly divulge how much or where it goes. Just crunch the numbers and throw them at the Board.
    I hope enough people get out and VOTE NO on the budget this year. Maybe if we all protest silently, and the budget isn't approved, noone in the district will know who to point the finger at this time.
    Yes, Bob, I know where there are some "no" signs. Just let me know...

  12. "How could anyone in their right mind ask for more money and new positions at this time Don't they realize that those now unemployed worry every day about which bill gets paid, or what portion of it, how to pay mortgage, rent,utilities,buy food,etc"...because I would imagine that the teachers, the administration and the elitists on the board are still being paid and have no clue what is going on out in the real world.

  13. Old Maineiac do you mean the elitists employed by the college that vote to hire graduates that ensures there jobs stay safe ? Slight conflict of interest there. Graduates that need training because college only gives them a set of credentials but no real education in how to do a job. I hope people remember these board members next election cycle so they can be voted out ! The same way these dictator politicians need to be in November all across the country.

  14. UNBELIEVABLE that RSU 9 would propose a $1.1 million increase during these times with everything up in the air due the virus. Current State tax revenues are greatly depleted and revenue shortfalls are expected to be significant going into 2021. So what will State funding for schools and town revenue sharing be months or a year from now? When State funding fades for these things, property taxes make up the difference. At the same time, citizens are also experiencing revenue shortfalls. The Maine Labor Dept. website shows current unemployment per county now compared to what is was last year at this time:
    County This year Last Year
    Franklin 12.6% 4.3%
    Somerset 13.8% 4.9%
    Kennebec 10.1% 4.9%
    No one knows how long all this is going to last. It depends on the spread of the virus. Realistically all State funded schools should be on a budget freeze until things blow over. That is just common sense. Instead RSU 9 is spending as usual like we are in boom times. Every Article in RSU 9’s proposed budget shows an increase (except the debt which is as expected.) That is unacceptable. We are in a crisis and RSU 9 should not strain everyone's finances further by increasing school spending.

  15. LINDY, I hope everyone reads your words and realizes the truth in them. The whole situation could not be explained better or more clearly. If the people in RSU 9 don't stand together this time and vote this incredibly wrong request for money and new positions down we are in BIG trouble. The schools would operate just fine ,and at least as good as they have in the last year without this ridiculous increase.The budget PROPOSAL from the RSU 9 administration and with board approval certainly exemplifies how much thought and care they have for our community. Hopefully, people will stand against this one until it is over. Thanks for your comment Lindy, as usual well-defined.

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