Franklin Countys First News

Mt. Blue school district voters go to the polls Tuesday

votingFARMINGTON - Residents of the 10 towns who make up the Mt. Blue Regional School District will head to the polls Tuesday to decide the fate of the proposed 2015-15 school budget in a  referendum validation vote.

This is the second attempt to get the district's budget passed.

On June 9, the majority of voters from seven of the district's 10 towns rejected a proposed $32,250,346 budget that was supported by the majority of more than 200 voters attending the district-wide budget meeting on June 1. That proposed budget was $1.2 million more than the last fiscal year budget, which represented an increase of 3.9 percent. The referendum to validate the budget meeting vote was 741 yes and 1,045 no.

After the budget was voted down, school board directors spent the next weeks trimming a total of $206,000 in expenditures from the first budget and voters at the second budget meeting held on June 21 passed the recommended amount of $32,043,907. The new total approved represents an increase of $1,003,291 over the previous fiscal year, or 3.2 percent.

Among the cuts were a world language position at Mt. Blue Middle School, half a math interventionist position, half of the Volunteer Coordinator Program and a portion of the locally-funded school health coordinator position. Supply line reductions were made to the music program and library technology funds, as well as $28,000 removed from the heating oil lines due to projected savings. Other, smaller lines for administration technology supplies and a stipend relating to the Mt. Blue Middle School Show Choir, were cut due to disuse over the past few years.

The Guidance budget was cut $10,000, which is running a surplus at the end of the year. Funds throughout the budget earmarked for substitute teacher pay were cut by $7,500. The contingency account for Special Education, a new item at $50,000, was cut in half to $25,000 and another $13,300 was cut from the locally-assessed budget by adding two items, 2 hours of daily custodial service around lunchtime and a contract to monitor the temperature of the lunch program freezer, to the school lunch budget. That budget runs in the black each year, without any contribution from the local assessment.

The latest budget also incorporates an extra $25 million in state subsidy that was appropriated by the Legislature as part of a 2-year, $80 million General Aid to Education to reduce the education mil rate. That decision was made after the first June school district budget votes. That rate, which sets the amount of money each town must raise to receive subsidy, will fall from 8.41 to 8.23. Last year's education mil rate was 8.1.  For MBRSD, that extra subsidy represents $301,000 that the towns will no longer be required to raise.

The July 28 referendum validation vote held in each of the district's 10 towns is a single question ballot with a yes or no response.  A yes vote  approves of the action taken at the July 21 budget meeting and a budget is adopted.  A no vote restarts the budget process, in this case, for a third time.

To give the district's taxpayers an idea of the amount of the increase to 2015 tax bills, Erin Norton, the treasurer for the town of Starks, provided a valuation comparison for each of the school district's 10 towns using the Maine Revenue Services Website for 2015.

Norton noted that "when each town’s assessors calculate tax bills there’s a series of formulas and adjustments used to determine actual values. Therefore, this is an approximation of the impact on your 2015 tax bill, and while my numbers may not be exact they should be close."

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Mt. Blue Regional School District Polling information:

CHESTERVILLE - Town Office at 409 Dutch Gap Road - 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.
FARMINGTON - Community Center at 127 Middle Street - Noon to 6:30 p.m.
INDUSTRY - Town Office at 1033 Industry Road - 2 p.m. to 8 p.m.
NEW SHARON - Town Office at 11 School Lane - 1 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
NEW VINEYARD - Smith Memorial Hall at 1680 New Vineyard Road - 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.
STARKS - Community Center at 57 Anson Road - 2 p.m. to 8 p.m.
TEMPLE - Town Hall at 258 Temple Road - 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.
VIENNA - Community Building - 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.
WELD - Multi-Purpose Room at the Town Office 23 Mill Street - 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
WILTON - Municipal Building at 158 Weld Road - 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.

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33 Responses »

  1. Excellent. Thank you Starks. We should have had these numbers all along

  2. The above chart may not look like much of an increase to some. However, looking at my tax bill from 2014, of what I paid in for property taxes, $1572.04 of that went to the school district. With the increase listed above, this year my payment to the school district will be about $1738.00. Don't you think that is a little much for one taxpayer to be paying towards the community school system. Somehow, the school district seems to think they can spend as usual and the money will just keep coming in to cover it. How did we get to this point?

  3. Here is an easier number to calculate, fixed income increase, ZERO. Property tax increase over the past two years, 22%. Why would I vote yes for another school budget increase?? Freeze the school budget like my fixed income is frozen. A no vote from this concerned tax payer.

  4. Lindy, I have to ask (non confrontational). Other then education, what do your taxes cover? I live on the outskirts of Farmington and pay my taxes to Farmington. I do have 3 children receiving an education so (for now) I'm ok with an increase. Maybe not this much because my taxes look the same as yours and it's painful with one income but I don't receive the same benefits as those who live in town Farmington do (snowplowed sidewalks, street cleaning, leaf removal, street lights, fire hydrants, etc.). I'm wondering if we need to accept this increase (that most everyone will benefit from. Yes, a good education IS good for everyone!) and take our concerns to the town and demand more for our money, or less taxes.
    BTW $3 for a bag of garbage is too steep for what I pay in taxes!

  5. I think I can afford $6.50 cents more a month to increase the special education budget, ensure our State funding, and support the students who are struggling to stay relevant in a world where education and technology are everything!

    If you don't feel that way I'd love to know the specifics of why you think the budget is too much. I'm having trouble grasping why people are voting no. Our district, even with this larger increase to improve the special education services, still spends below average per student.

    Please vote 'yes' and give our kids a fighting chance in this world. Please don't compromise the education of our next generation.

    Thank you!

  6. I think it's a shame that some of the towns have polls that close before working people will have a chance to vote. Those are some pretty disappointing times up there. ^

  7. To "Me"...the tax amounts that I listed are only the portion of my taxes that goes to the school. On most tax bills it is broken down and tells you what percent of your taxes goes to the school system and so from that, you can figure the exact dollar amount.

  8. So here is why I am voting no tomorrow.. The budget and its process is dis-ingenuous. check it out.. They put it in black and white for us in this article.. "as well as $28,000 removed from the heating oil lines due to projected savings".....the boilers were replaced last year I am told so that projected savings should have been included in the original budget...that's not a cut...that's a line item that should have been caught when the original budget was proposed....They also cut a stipend for the music program due to dis-use over the past few years...."Other, smaller lines for administration technology supplies and a stipend relating to the Mt. Blue Middle School Show Choir, were cut due to disuse over the past few years." So we paid for that program and it was not used the past few years? So where is that money? My point is that they added to the budget and never truly vetted the actual spending. Initially we were told by Dr. Ward that there could be no further cuts without impacting students directly.. but here they managed to do it. lets vote it down again and see what other cuts were overlooked....does it do any harm to have the school district working to spend our tax dollars wisely...

  9. So, here's why I am voting yes. Beacause I care about the future of our students and our community. And I know that schools are where strong communities begin. I truly feel for those that cannot make ends meet. I teach many underprivileged students and I can see how the families struggle. But, I also see how important school communities are in looking out for those kids and their families. I see teacher pour out money and time to make sure that students have what they need at school and away from school. So, when you vote no because you're mad at school administration for past, or current transgression, please remember that the board and superintendent may "get the message" , whatever that may be. No one who opposes the budget ever publicly speaks against it. But it's the learning of the students that is directly impacted. Pleas consider voting yes for the future of our kids.

  10. Our tax bill has already increased 35%!! The fat must be cut! There will be no students left for teachers to teach when family's can't afford to stay in the district. Enough is enough!!

  11. I will be voting no tomorrow. The district has been using the "it's for the kids" talk for years. The truth is our kids used to get a better education before we had this big money sucking district. People learn because they want to and there is more info in todays world than there has ever been for anybody who wants to look for it. District spending is out of control and has been for a long time.

    We need to get voting for the budget back to where it used to be, at town meetings where most people still go to take care of town taxes. Not at poorly attended district voting just for the school. That is one of the biggest reasons the school budget is out of control, because most people don't vote, unless they work for the district.

    What do you think your taxes would be if every building the towns own spent money installing three heating systems in every building and three additional ways to heat water in every buidling like the high school did? Does anyone think that is needed or helps our kids get smarter??? How about selling all the equipment in the kitchen that had been working fine and buying all new? Kids getting smarter yet? The old equipment was stored in a rented building for over a year and then sold at auction at bargin prices. I saw a like new $5,000. 80 quart mixer sell for $100.00 there. This district bleeds money people. Please vote no, kids that want to learn will still learn.

  12. I'm wondering why, if there are directors who don't believe they have done enough (Mr. Clair), this budget was even put before the voters? If they know they can do more cuttin' (sports and shuttle bus) then they should be doin' more cuttin'. I, for one, will be voting no to give them another year to figure things out.

  13. I am voting yes because simply I would rather invest more of my money and my time now.Then my money Years down the line when an insufficient education puts my child at risk for unemployment. Our sadly putting more money into the correctional facilities that our housing them because of the lack of choices due to a insufficient education.

  14. In our house we will be voting yes for the school budget because:

    We believe in funding public schools. Schools are not fully funded by the state, so we need to do the best we can. New challenges are given to public schools by the state every year, and are not fully funded.

    We believe in public education. Our three kids went to public schools and grew into well educated, fully employed adults. Our public schools worked for them.

    We participated in the schools our kids went to, we knew the staff, administrators, and other students. We trust them to do the best they can in a challenging setting. We still attend some school activities, and volunteer from time to time, even though our youngest graduated from college recently.

    We vote in local elections, and trust the people elected to do the best they can in their positions as our representatives. If we disagree with them, we talk to them, may speak at public meetings, and go on with life. They work hard in their public positions, we support them and we are glad they are willing to serve.

    We understand its not easy to pay all the costs as home and property owners. We have been paying our taxes for about 29 years, which is much longer than our kids attended school.

    We are voting yes for the school budget, because education is not just about our kids attending school, its about every kid having the chance to attend good schools, and its about our trust in the teachers, administrators and school board members. They are our neighbors and fellow taxpayers too, and we trust them to do the best they can with the time and resources available.

    We will be voting yes.

  15. After going to all the budget meetings since the first No vote, I definitely am voting NO on this revised budget. Cutting back on wasteful spending doesn't jeopardize any child's education yet all along, the superintendent and certain board members have been insisting how the children's education will suffer. Every politician knows that if you say something over and over again often enough, people will eventually believe it. Of course, RSU employees vote Yes for every budget, no matter what it contains. In fact, the district budget meeting is so overflowing with employees, it should be renamed the 'meeting when the school employees vote in the budget'.

    My main concern, however, is the school board itself. There are members who absolutely do not believe they should have to cut any costs and that, in the name of education, the community should provide whatever they ask for. They will not compromise even when their own town has voted No. When the budget was set, there were 5 members who voted against it. They opposed it because they wanted to make more cuts and knew that more cuts could be made safely. Bravo to them, in the face of such adversity by other board members and the superintendent. Shame on the other board members and the superintendent who keep insisting that this budget is bare bones (like they said before they found $206,000 in cuts). Of note, this budget contains a $3050 raise for the superintendent.

  16. This won't pass.. Demand a 3% across the board decrease... District employees must learn to live with a little less and not expect more from us.. if you don't like it, then move to another district...

  17. I believe that there is always room for improvement, however, our real issue is in Augusta. Is the state of Maine paying their full 55% of the EPS as voted on by their constituents many years ago? How about revenue sharing? The state is giving less money to its towns than ever before. They issue all kinds of mandates but do not pass on the funding for the mandates. I think we should all have a big rally in Augusta. No more mandates until they have reached the 55% and change the formula.

    I realize that the school budget makes up a huge chunk of municipal taxes. I wish I could see the same passion of scrutiny put into the rest of town expenditures.

  18. I am concerned with the idea that the more money we spend on education the better the education of our children will be. Why shouldn't the schools have to do More with Less money just like a majority of the taxpayers that fund it.

  19. We will be voting No as well! More cuts need to be made. Why are we giving raises when we are in this situation? We are cutting programs that affect children, but still giving raises? The school district and the school board say it's all about the children"....come on! It's what is best for the Staff and Adimistration! Tax payers need to go by the Middle School and High School on a normal day....see all the students wandering around...hanging in the hallways...all the "educational time" being wasted! This is not about our kids getting educated...it is what is best for the Staff! Until I see these needless raises go away...I'll be voting NoA,

  20. My taxes in Temple went up almost $1000.00 in 1 year. If they go up anymore, I will be selling - can't afford to live here anymore!

  21. We are voting yes on the budget in out household (Note: No RSU employees here). We believe that the budget is a responsible to both students and the community. It would be helpful if all the people who comment here, both yeses and nos, would lobby to have the state pay their full 55% share so the burden would not be passed on to communities, causing this very destructive enmity between neighbors.

    Regarding teacher salaries, according to the Maine Educators Association, Mt. Blue comes in below the average teacher salary in Maine. We have seen a fair number of outstanding educators leaving our district in recent years because they can make a better salary elsewhere.

    Also worth noting is that, as of October 2014, Maine ranked 48th in the nation for teacher salaries.

    Mt. Blue pays considerably less per pupil costs than the state average, which is also less than RSU 58 (Strong) and RSU 73 (Jay/Livermore). District spending is not out of control.

    People like to point to the fact that we have renovated and built new schools. Dr. Ward pointed out at the budget meeting that the fact that we have kept up with our buildings so well makes our repair and maintenance line half of the state average.

    I am greatly appreciative of the time and effort put into this budget by the school board and administration. I cannot begin to express my gratitude for the efforts or our teachers, staff and administration to do their best for our students in a very trying educational, economic and, yes, political environment.

  22. I think it is also important to point out that although New Sharon voters were told by their selectmen that their taxes would be increasing by $200 per 100,000 property value, the increase per $100K is actually $75 per year. I wish this had been highlighted in this article.

  23. I say vote yes. If we did not want to see these outlandish increases, we should not have invested so much money in a huge mammoth of a new school in the first place. Now we have to pay for it (or get more districts to sign on to SAD 9 so we can spread the cost around some more..OR try and get more money from the state).

  24. I had the privilege to work with the PTA a number of years and am impressed by the dedication and care that our teachers, administrators and staff show for our children. The key to a better future for our kids and stronger economic development in our region (which would ultimately mean less taxes) is to invest in education. Our schools are the cornerstone of the community. The schools really need a lot more money than is budgeted but the school board took the concerns and limits of the people seriously. Unless one is a knee jerk 'vote no no matter what' this thoughtful and lean budget deserves a yes vote.

  25. John, I wonder when the last time was you walked into the Middle School and saw "all the students wandering around...hanging in the hallways...all the "educational time" being wasted!"?? We have roughly 550 students in the school and we have 6 different bell schedules. So yes chances are there will always be kids in the hall at some point, but that is because each grade has 2 communities and each community has its own schedule. I am a teacher at the middle school and I would love for John or any other naysayer who says that this is only about benefits to the staff to come in and follow me around for a day or two!!

  26. "In fact, between fiscal year 2008 (before the recession) and fiscal year 2015, Maine slashed state aid to public schools by 13.3 percent – a deeper cut than 38 other states, according to a 2014 report by the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

    To avoid program and staff reductions, many Maine communities have opted to raise property taxes, a 2013 Maine Policy Review paper found, thus placing more pressure on local taxpayers. But the additional revenue isn’t enough to offset state spending cuts: Maine’s teacher salaries, for example, are 17 percent below the national average, making it harder to attract and keep qualified educators." ~Our View: Maine shirks obligation to K-12 schools, students http://www.pressherald.com/2015/07/15/our-view-maine-shirks-obligation-to-k-12-schools-students/ 07/15/15

    As one of the five directors that did not vote for this budget, I understand the frustrations of the tax payers and wanted there voices heard. Please know, the directors on the school board do not have malice intent on the tax payers. This budget was not formed in a haphazard manner. There were many long nights of debate and discussion that have been ongoing for months. Information has been presented by the staff and voices heard from our community.

    I voted against this budget because, having spent most of my life here, I understand the great strain increased taxes mean on an already impoverished population. According to the 2000 census, the median household income for Franklin County was $31,459, where as the national average was $55,030 and the state of Maine at $37,240.

    We are charged with educating our children at the same level as other schools no matter the financial realities of the community. We do this so that they will grow to be competitive and have the same level of competence, aspirations and education. We aim to educate our children while teaching them to respect the humble roots from which they come, but they should never feel held back by their home towns.

    There is a fine balance that has to be found. We need to be able to provide the foundation for our young minds that doesn't negatively impact our communities. Pushing people that are on the brink of poverty themselves is not how to effectively educate. We have to have responsible expenditures. Repeat increases to the budget are not sustainable. That being said, as you will notice from the quote at the beginning of my statement, State funding has decreased and the strain on our individual communities to pick up the remainder has increased.

    "From Between 2001 and 2008... states, on average, enacted about 10 percent of proposed school reform policies. Between 2009 and 2014, however, they enacted 68 percent of them." (http://phys.org/news/2015-07-spurs-policy-reform.html#jCp, 07.28.15) The nation is increasing the standards for our students. And the state is decreasing its support. It's difficult to find the bridge between these gaps, but it falls on us, the community.

    I did vote no on the budget. I did it because I'm still not happy with the amount we are obligating our tax payers at. If this budget does not pass I will sit again with the other directors of this school district and work for hours pouring over line item by line item attempting to find anywhere that can be reduced that will not negatively impact our students and thus impact the future of this community. That does not mean there are misappropriated funds. That also does not mean that we will find funding that will not have a negative impact. We are attempting to meet new educational standards and policies that are setting the bar higher each year for our students. The budget is growing to meet these demands.

    Please do know that those that build this budget do not take this responsibility lightly. Those that voted yes for it truly feel this is the best budget that can be brought before the public. Those that voted no feel that there may be places to increase or decrease. We are truly between a rock and a hard place and are attempting to keep everyone's needs in mind.

    Our current School Board is comprised of a diverse population from all of our towns in RSU 9. We have tried very hard to create the most balanced and fair minded budget that can keep our students on par with their peers from anywhere in the United States.

    Thank you,
    Cherieann Harrison Director Representing the town of Wilton

  27. Still voting no when they get real and cut the raises and babysitters it will look a lot better to me ... back to the drawing table as they say

  28. Yes, Why has the budget gone up so quickly and could someone explain to me why some of the hardest working employees( bus drivers & custodians) have not had a raise in 6 years? I think if anyone gets a raise(Thank-You John), it should be the bus drivers, janitors, cafeteria staff and teachers as they work with our kids directly and have the most stress and responsibility. I would be more inclined to vote yes if I thought my tax dollars were being spent fairly & wisely.

  29. Here's a little education for all those who think we need to spend this much on schools and it's no big deal.

    Call your local town office and ask them how many certified letters they sent out to tax payers for late tax notices the last time they sent them out. My town sent out 133 notices to people who are having a hard time paying their taxes.

    No big deal right, lets buy a few more things for the schools they don't need.

  30. Chickadee and Richard, you are both spot on! I am one of the ones who gets that letter from the town every year! I have to make payments and use what very little tax return I get to pay it off (6+ months late). I get fee's and interest that don't make it any easier and this hike will make it that much worse. More cuts need to be made!

  31. Again,

    While I understand the rhetoric and wasn't too pleased with our own property tax bill last year, and our state income tax bill, and our federal income tax bill...oh and our car registration...oh and the cost of heating oil...wood....groceries.... and...and...and....

    There is an implied contract in a civilized society...it includes things like accessible healthcare, safety nets for those in need, public safety, a fire department, decent repair of roads and bridges, and an education for the next generation of citizens.

    Education costs money. As with any other endeavor anywhere - you get what you pay for. The statistics tell a clear story - this district does more with relatively less. Our kids are well educated - whether in a college preparatory track or a vocational track RSU 9 has provided a solid education for our children (and I am one of them) for decades and decades. In addition, RSU 9 offers our students truly enriching and in many cases life-shaping opportunities from high level athletics to music to theater to many others.

    Unfortunately what is playing out in this school budget cycle is collective frustration at a fundamentally broken funding system which is just one facet of a socioeconomic system - nation-wide - that has lost touch with the sensibilities and priorities of most rational, reasonable, hard-working people - whether left or right leaning.

    When did the citizens of Maine - long an independent-minded and voting state - allow such egregious under-funding of our school systems? When did we cease to hold state government - executive and legislative - accountable for this non-sustainable school funding system with it's resultant, annually-increasing burden upon property-tax-payers?

    Our appropriate, collective frustration and rightful questioning should be directed toward Augusta and Washington D.C. - and not our local school board directors, school administrators, teachers, support staff, and students.

    I am voting YES - as I believe our district deserves some direction and stability for the coming year but I would encourage all of us - both YES and NO voters on this issue - to come together and direct our energies at the underlying, much-bigger-picture issues at play.

  32. Interested in seeing some results on the vote as all town polls have closed.

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