Franklin Countys First News

Rangeley Lakes district approve $3.4 million budget, additional funding for special ed

Rangeley Lakes Regional School, earlier today.

RANGELEY - Residents of Regional School Unit 78 approved a proposed budget for the next fiscal year at Tuesday evening's meeting, but not before setting aside another $25,000 for the special education article.

Superintendent Brian Foster said that some residents in attendance expressed concern over a school board proposal to reduce the Rangeley Lakes Regional School District's social worker position from full to part-time. Those in attendance successfully amended Article 2, the special education cost center, to increase the school board's recommendation of $410,685 by an additional $25,000. The amendment passed by a vote of 34 to 18. RSU 78 conducts meetings with open budget articles, which can be increased by the public.

Foster said the school board would still be the deciding factor on how the additional funds were used in the special education budget. The board represents the voters of Rangeley, Sandy River Plantation, Rangeley Plantation, Dallas Plantation and Magalloway Plantation.

Another amendment which would have reduced expenditures for Article 8, the transportation cost center, failed to pass. The amendment sought to expend $8,000 less than the recommended $242,881. Foster noted the transportation budget had risen from $189,576 to $242,881, chiefly due to rising fuel costs and the inclusion of Rangeley Plantation in the district, which necessitated the hiring of another bus driver.

Voters increased the local appropriation by $25,000 in Article 14, to reflect the special education cost center increase. The $1.33 million in "additional funds" that go beyond the state's Essential Programs and Services model's recommended $1.91 million is a typical ratio for the district. The Rangeley Lakes district is considered a minimum receiver by the state and receives roughly $75,000 in subsidy, to cover a third of the special education budget.

The vote for Article 14 was conducted with written ballots, passing by a vote of 52 to 14.

The budget includes funding an additional 1.5 ed tech positions with local money, following the expenditure of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money, an additional kindergarten teacher to cover the larger class that's anticipated in the fall and an alternative education position to cover the needs of middle and high schoolers. Reductions include a part-time literacy coach and moving the business manager position to part-time.

"The board really wrestled with competing interests," Foster said, noting that directors were trying to balance initial operating expenses of the RSU with programming and facility improvements. The new RSU addition of Rangeley Plantation and other changes have made it "a real challenge to compare apples with apples."

The budget currently stands at $3,384,833, including the addition of $25,000 in expenditures made at the public hearing. That is roughly $44,000 less than the current fiscal year's overall budget. According to Foster, the current, 2010-2011 fiscal year budget includes $263,000 in RSU formation-related expenses, mostly summer salaries and benefits.

The referendum vote is June 7. Residents will be asked if they approve of the results of the budget meeting.

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