Franklin Countys First News

Mt. Blue budget voted down, bond approved

Residents cast a vote at the June 1 Mt. Blue Regional School District budget meeting.

FARMINGTON - Residents of Mt. Blue Regional School District's ten towns voted against validating a $33.9 million budget at Tuesday evening's referendum, but did support a $318,000 bond issue for district-wide facility improvements.

The result marks the third straight year that the budget was not validated in the first vote; the 2015 and 2016 budgets were later ratified after reductions in a second round of voting. The preliminary, unofficial tally indicates that 1,457 votes were cast in favor of the budget, with 1,641 votes cast in opposition.

Preliminary town-by-town results for the validation vote:
Weld - 34 yes and 52 no
Temple - 65 yes and 75 no
Chesterville - 61 yes and 183 no
Starks - 84 yes and 19 no
Industry - 65 yes and 89 no
Farmington - 644 yes and 501 no
New Vineyard - 31 yes and 109 no
New Sharon - 139 yes and 207 no
Vienna - 61 yes and 57 no
Wilton - 273 yes and 349 no

The budget approved at the June 1 meeting represented an increase of $1,148,163 over the current fiscal year, or 3.51 percent. Additions include additional half-time teaching positions at Mt. Blue Campus in the American Sign Language and science programs, as well as part-time counseling positions to Foster Technology Center and Mt. Blue High School. In the Special Services program, the hours of ed techs in the Adaptive Life Skills program would have been increased and an additional 17 ed tech positions would have been added district-wide. Another proposed increase would have added three social worker positions to work with Regular Instruction students.

Current revenue projections available through the MDOE indicate that the budget would result in an increase of $722,690 increase to the local tax assessments. Those projections are based off Gov. Paul LePage's proposed budget.

While the budget validation vote failed, residents did approve a $318,000 bond issue for improvements to district schools. A total of 1,540 residents supported the bond, while 1,455 opposed it.

Preliminary town-by-town results for the bond issue vote:
Weld - 36 yes and 50 no (additionally, 1 yes from Perkins Twp and 2 no)
Temple - 72 yes and 70 no
Chesterville - 74 yes and 161 no
Starks - 84 yes and 19 no
Industry - 71 yes and 83 no
Farmington - 663 yes and 458 no
New Vineyard - 46 yes and 94 no
New Sharon - 126 yes and 216 no
Vienna - 65 yes and 54 no
Wilton - 303 yes and 250 no

More details on the specific projects to be targeted by the bond can be found here. Estimating a 3.5 percent interest rate and a 10-year lifespan, the $317,834 bond would cost $38,217 a year for 10 years. The first payment would be part of the 2018-19 budget, not the incoming 2017-18 fiscal year. The timing of the bond would have the first payment due the year after the last payment on the Academy Hill School gymnasium and heating improvements, which costs the district $29,104 each year.

 

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83 Responses »

  1. Why don't we try this? Why don't we all tromp into the next school board meeting, sit down, listen, and take notes. Maybe, just maybe if there's a large attendance, we'll get to the bottom of the who's, why's and then we'll see how OUR TOWN'S Reps are handling OUR money or supporting the town's vote. I've been doing that for a lot of meetings. But I'm one person. I'm not particularly threatening. Nor do I intend to be. Perhaps a large crowd, as long as it's polite and not unruly, will have some effect. You can then see how things work. You'll leave with an impression, I'm sure. Good or bad, you'll leave with an impression. And maybe, just maybe, you'll learn something. I always do.
    BTW: It's public, and there are plenty of seats.

  2. PS, sorry for the column formatting, always learning!

  3. I am a YES voter and want to thank Tom Ward, Board Members and administrators for all their hard work. There are many of us that appreciate your long hours and efforts to make our educational system, a good one, for our young residents.

  4. “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”

  5. I agree with the budget but our income just can't stretch any further . We bought our home back in 2010 and it's crazy how much our taxes have gone up ! I've been forced out of the work force because of a chronically ill child and another increase wouldn't be easy for us !

  6. We will be voting no. We're on a limited one income household budget. We've seen the district do wasteful things with the money and there are ways to cut corners and buckle their belts just like we had to save our homes the last several years with the tax increases!

  7. Matt, your formatting doesn't help your argument. :)

  8. It would be interesting to know how many of the yes and no voters earn more than $70000 with benefits included. My guess is that the majority of yes voters do and the minority of no voters do.

  9. We the voters/investors, have once again sent a very clear message to the board. Spending is out of control. We are very weary of the same old message that spending cuts will be detrimental to the kids. Where are the metrics for showing us voter/investors how the kids have improved over the past five years after getting what the board has deemed, critical funds?

    Significant spending cuts are the only acceptable answer or it will fail to pass on the next go around.

  10. For those Strongly against the budget: what does your idea of a reasonable and effective budget look like? What do cut to meet that?

  11. Matt Allen, are you sure? AND how about other comparisons? Sports? Transportation? Why does RSU9 need 2 more administrators than the STATE ESP recommends? A BIG ONE for you MATT as you teach math, how come the students don't do better on the math test? Most don't even meet the standard!

  12. Anyone is naive if they think that this isn't what the school board and the administration expected to happen. They asked for way more than they knew would pass or what they needed and now will shave it down a little and say how much they had to cut, throw it out for a vote and it will pass and the final amount will be what they were really hoping for in the first place. They play us for fools every year and we take the bait. Vote it down this next time and then you will see them sweat a little to make cuts. Right now we are playing right into their hands. By the way I saw some of the meetings and noticed a number of empty board chairs. I will not vote for these people again.

  13. Captain: So right you are...here is the summary:

    RSU 9 spent about 12 % less than the sate average for System and School Administration, Staff and Student Support, and Special Education on a per student basis.

    RSU 9 spent between 18% lower and 60% lower than RSU 10, RSU 54, and RSU 73.

    Since these neighboring districts all spend much more money in these budget categories than RSU 9, it may be easier for them to get through with smaller budgetary increases, or maybe even a decrease.

    Facts would be great to gather, from a valid source, and to then discuss and decide. Using the above facts, for these four budget category expenses support my belief that RSU 9 has worked hard to balance costs to services provided. One source is the the State of Maine: http://maine.gov/education/data/indicators/16rcfpp.pdf

    I can not support statements about out of control costs, when actual costs are considerably lower than neighboring districts, and the state average. I do appreciate the State of Maine reimbursing all districts, with those most in need, like ours, having a higher percent of expenses being reimbursed.

    I also appreciate how expensive education is at all levels. Our three children all went through RSU 9, graduated, and went on to four years of college, graduated from those three different colleges, and are working at good jobs.
    An RSU 9 education can work very well for our students, especially if they want it to get ready for what is next in their life!

  14. Here is a vote for an informed, amicable, and compassionate solution to this budget conflict. Our ability to compromise should be greater than our ability to belittle. That would be a great lesson to pass on to our children at this point.

  15. I am just wondering at what point do we stop enabling the disfunctional parents in our district? They are driving up the costs of the budget every year. Don't misunderstand me, I am always willing to help the less fortuniate, poor, abused, etc., but at what cost? We live in a society that so often forgets that helping/rescuing isn't always a benefit for society. When we step in and take over the parental role, we are not helping the environment at home. We need to hold tbe parents accountable and deal correctly with the wrong behavior.
    We have also forgotten the disfunctional parents that are creating so many ED Tech/social services positions were once in school themselves! Why didn't the money and teachers help them when they were in school? I am sure there are some children that will see the error of their parents' choices, but unfortuniately "More is caught, than is taught." If we as a school think it is our responsibility to raise these children, I am afraid the current condition of society will keep reproducing itself in future generations.

    @Just wondering..my children have been attending RSD9 for 4 years now. They have all had great opportunities, teachers, and classes. However, I have not seen their level of education improve to justify the amount of money the budget has increased. We all know if we started increasing our budgets at home at the same rate the school budget has increased each year, our household would see huge improvements. If not, we better start asking ourselves what is wrong? Our taxes have increased $900 dollars in the last few years. My children are very well behaved and always get great reviews from the school staff and on their report cards. Somehow the money isn't making it into the classrooms to improve the educational opportunities for my children. If they are receiving the same level of great education they did four years ago, why isn't that budget adequate today? Maybe its time for us to start holding each other accountable and taking our responsibilties as parents seriously. We need to ask ourselves, "Are we contributing to our community or are we draining its resources?"

  16. Why don't we wait to pass a budget after the state can give us a straight answer on how much they will send. It doesn't do us any good to hope they will send enough to not increase property taxes. Wait until they get things together and know themselves. I would also like to challenge anyone to call WKTJ tomorrow and ask sen. Saviello the answer to that question. They've had the Gov. Proposed budget since January and havent done anything yet.

  17. "It would be interesting to know how many of the yes and no voters earn more than $70000 with benefits included. My guess is that the majority of yes voters do and the minority of no voters do."

    It would be interesting to know how many people who earn more than $70,000 had a good education and how many people who earn less than $70,000 think that education is not worth the investment,

  18. Bottom line, we the people decided in majority. Now the board needs to lower the requested amount and present again to the people. Get creative, figure out how to increase revenue as a BUSINESS. I spoke to a college alumni of UMF and their tuition for the year was $6000.00. Living at home. The (tax-payer funded) public school average is about 10k.

  19. @MATT A. where did you say they were working? Sounds like three smart kids and some excellent parenting !Were they lucky enough to find good paying jobs in Maine?

  20. Board member from Chesterville

    First let me say that I am from a "NO" town and proud of it. Our town has been fiscally responsible. I do not MOOCH off of the Town of Farmington, I am educated and I am not EVIL as one commenter stated. What concerns me the most is all the made-up names? Who are you? Employees of the district? That would be my guess for the most of you. However, if you are an employee teaching our students, what are you teaching them other than it okay to express yourselves as long as you are sneaky and underhanded. By all means do not let people know who you are. This is not the type of education that should be taught to our students.

  21. I want to know how many students attending RSU 9 on a Superintendents agreement are in need of special services that cost more than the basic education cost, like an ed tech or social services. If these students are adding an expense to our school system then the giving district should be paying, or the parents, or not agree to take them in.

  22. "Maineiac"

    Last year I asked the board now many special needs students had moved into our district from other
    districts. I was told 4. Later in the year I heard we got a few more. The year before we were told that
    3 moved in to our district. At the school auditorium vote on May 30 we were told that 14 special needs
    students are moving in this year. Do you see the trend I see?? This admin team has put the "open for
    business" sign out to allllllll parents with a special needs student. They are moving here because our
    district is spending money like crazy to help these students. We can't afford to educate every special
    need student in a 100 mile radius!!!!! This has to stop. The asst director of special ed. also said that
    their department alone has 85 ed techs and about 56 are one on one care. We must let the admin
    team know that the "no vacancy" sign needs to go up.

  23. Maineiac -- I also asked about the superintendent's agreement students on a previous post. Wondering if any board members might be able to determine if this is a consideration when agreeing to take these student's from other districts? It should certainly be a factor.

  24. Matt Billian,

    One of the ways the district was pursuing revenue was through the Chinese and international program. Like any program it requires time to grow and develop and just like any business requires investment capital so that it may compete. The competition for international students is intense and requires marketing savvy and resources.

    Instead of continuing to provide that capital for that program -- still in its infancy -- the board decided to cut that $20,000 because the program hadn't paid dividends fast enough. Where else could they have cut? Not for me to decide. If what the critics of the school budget want are revenue generating streams in a non-profit school district, they should be speaking out loud about supporting specific endeavors to do so.

    So, that said, buy some 3D printed Focus Fidgets from wickedfocus.com and you'll be supporting a classroom based business at Mt. Blue, designed and run by high school students learning about how to meet the needs of others, build a brand, and sustain a business. The students reinvest their earnings back into the business and donate a portion to local non-profits.

  25. And as always, even though I'm a classroom teacher and not a member of the school board or an administrator, I'm always open to conversations and discussions about how I might be able to leverage my position to help community members on a fixed income, seek increasingly meaningful learning experiences for students, and generally improve goodwill and outcomes. (As a matter of fact, I'm teaching a new course at Mt. Blue next fall that's focused on community-based problem solving -- it's called Design Thinking and I have a full load of students signed up. Hoping we can do some legit good in Franklin County.)

    Let me know when and where you'd like to meet. I'm partial to Tucks, as I've mentioned before. I'd invite you to my classroom but it won't be available starting next week. Plus, so many conversations have happened at that campus, I'm sure there are other places where we can work together to find solutions.

    Of course, to meet I'd need to know folks actual names but if you just want to have an awkward conversation where you refer to yourself in the third person by your screen name, I'm not going to judge. I can adjust.

    So let me know. The last time I put this invite out with regards to the county budget, no one took me up on it. Before that, I had one school board member say they would be in contact with me, but never did.

    I have to work several weeks at other jobs this summer, so I'm not 100% available at the drop of a hat, but if you get in touch with me at Dryder at mtbluersd.org I will certainly respond and work out a time with you to meet and talk. I really want to better understand points of view that aren't my own. It's the only way to come to a solution.

  26. Mike if the student doesn't live in our district and attends our school the school isn't responsible for any special Ed services. They have to live in the district . Also it's hard to get your child a one on one staff. I had to fight tooth and nail for my child to get one for 7. 5 hours a week. I had the opportunity to put my special needs child that has a one on one staff at Mallett and refused because it's to much kaos up there . I didn't flock and I live in the district. It may sound like these kids are all behavioral but some are born with other issues that are not from bad parenting as some of you are suggesting. I think maybe you all should stop pointing fingers at why our school is going down the tubes and look back at how they use to run our schools when supplies were low we shared or just went without and used our common sense. How about some good old fashion chalk and chalkboard?
    Yes, I'm a homeowner and my taxes have gone up hundreds of dollars and have never had a child attend this district YET since we purchased this home in 2010.

  27. Buckshot: Good questions, some background: I am from a small town in Pennsylvania, with a large high school. We had many of the same options as students do here: strong academics, music, art, world languages, a tech center on the same campus. My siblings and I went to five different colleges, and have four BS degrees, and three Masters degrees between us. We were the first to go to college in our family, and our parents supported the need to get as much education as we could.

    I met my wife in Central, Park, New York, while I was working in Brooklyn, NY shortly after college. We found we had a bit in common, and were married about three years later, in a small historic canal village in northern NJ.

    We have lived and worked in three states since being married, so our children have a fairly current view on how mobile the modern workforce is. We have been living and working in Maine, since the winter of 1997. Our children attended schools in New York, Vermont and Maine, and currently work in Boston, New York City, and Detroit Michigan.

    As our parents before us, my wife and I believe strongly in public education, and the need to learn how to learn in order to have a chance in our modern, global economy. Our children believe the same, and have demonstrated they will work for what they believe in. We hope they will return to Maine someday, but we are planning to spend time with them wherever they are.

    We believe education can support a better future for anyone who believes and commits themselves to learning and doing. Is education expensive? Yes, at all levels. Is it worth it? Yes. Is education an investment in our own future, and the future of our families and communities? Absolutely.

    I am now beginning my 37th year of work after college. I believe a good education is available here, and will support rebuilding our local economy. Not all of our kids will stay and work in Maine. However, the modern world is full of families such as ours that will travel to new areas for work, if the conditions are right. We settled in Wilton because of the schools, and are doing our part to keep them strong.

  28. I voted yes with a lot of my friends. None of our families make 70,000 or close to it. We value education and feel fortunate that we live in a community that provides these services.

  29. Mom of Children in Different schools.

    I against the school budget for my own reasons, but am appauled about everything you said about poverty stricken families, bad parents etc. So much judgement! WOW!

  30. Craig, Thank you for trying to change how the school system spends it's money.

    To everyone else, it saddens me that this comes down to an argument of " are you for the kids and education or just a mean person who doesn't care about kids as much as you do your taxes ".

    Please consider that some people oppose the budget because they care about the kids too. They don't like the way the district spends it's money. The other side of the coin is that some of the yes voters feel that if they don't support the budget, either something that is important to their child will be cut (my soft spot is the music program), or that it seem like they don't care about the kids.

    I am at a loss about the people who are blaming disabled children for this...i'm shaking my head about that.

    Bottom line for me is STOP fighting about it and try to be flexible and communicate your point without vilifying the other side. Maybe it's even time to toss out the previous years budgets and start fresh. Maybe the budget committee and the Board would be able to make changes that would compromise enough for everyone.

    Peace and love my fellow RSU9'ers!

  31. IT TAKES A SCHOOL TO BANKRUPT A VILLAGE !!!

  32. It's incredibly short-sighted to refuse to adequately fund education. Lack of support for children's future, poor schools, decreasing business and employment opportunities, ever-expanding growth of low-paying, dead-end jobs as opposed to good-paying jobs with some possibility for growth has been happening in western Maine for a long time. This won't help.

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